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On display is the prototype of the computer system that goes with the Firearm Monitoring System.
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 04 October 2023

At a time when a strong voter-approved gun control measure is being challenged in court, a local team of Black developers and engineers has created promising technology to prevent firearm deaths, both in police confrontations and in homes. 

gun cam tech med2Etheric Mc Farlane holds a prototype of a firearm cameraDeveloper Etheric Mc Farlane conceptualized the Firearm Monitoring System after conversations with a retired Portland Police officer. Mc Farlane, who operates his own computer-building and repair business locally, told The Skanner about the resulting technology he and his team are in the process of patenting – and why his answer to the epidemic of police shootings is to “start with the gun.”

 

The Skanner News: How did this project come about?

Etheric Mc Farlane: There’s a gentleman by the name of Larry Anderson. He’s a retired Portland Police officer.  Even with his respect and reputation in the police bureau, there was not much he could do about police shootings of Black people. He came to me and said, I’ve got a problem. What would you recommend to develop, in technology, for this situation?

He had a 16-year-old boy who was shot by a police officer in the line of duty, and the young boy died in his arms. He said, how do you stop this? I said, I start with the gun.

Mr. Anderson said, Go in and design something where we can control the outcome and de-escalate. We don’t want to kill people. He said, despite what’s happening, people are not signing up to shoot people. I need you to design a product with that in mind so the police can actually use it. 

So we were thinking, how do we stop children from hurting themselves with firearms? And how do we get a better understanding of why officers are using their firearms in their citizen encounters?

We had to step away from the race issue and look generally.

We came up with fingerprint recognition systems, and that would stop the babies from being able to shoot themselves with grandpa’s firearm or dad’s firearm – that was the first step.

The second step was we needed gun cameras. And we needed to put gun cameras on firearms so that we could see the circumstances where an officer felt he had to use his firearm.

And so that’s where we invented and I designed something called the gun camera. I designed this camera for Mr. Anderson, in 2015…by 2017, (Anderson) had found an engineer, an African American man named Janus Sanders who actually built the concept of the gun cam. 

Mr. Anderson is in his sixties, and he’s got young African American men in their forties and fifties developing this technology, designing the technology. I drew it out, and Janus built it.

Mr. Anderson gave me $10,000 and told me to patent it. 

 

etheric mc farlane medEtheric Mc Farlane speaks with The Skanner NewsTSN: How would the gun camera operate?

EMF: I designed a computer system that could be used by police officers in circumstances where they felt their safety was at risk, that would allow police agencies to virtually tap in through video. They can hear what’s going on through a microphone. A situation would be, if it gets escalated, it can be sent to a captain or a sergeant with the intent to de-escalate a situation. 

The gun camera attaches to a firearm and it is activated automatically when it comes out of the holster. So you don’t have to turn it on. It only turns off when you put the firearm back into the holster. The gun camera is digitally designed to know when it has been removed from the holster and when it has been returned.

We don’t want to monitor the police; that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to give the police a tool that they can use and de-escalate situations and save lives. It is called the Firearm Monitoring System.

 

TSN: Has the system been tested by law enforcement?

EMF: Something that’s very popular but seldom talked about: The Black people in this country, when we build stuff, we have stuff that’s patented, under patent protection or in ideal concept stage, people don’t really care.

They take and use technology that Black people have, and they don’t care about being sued. 

When we designed the gun cam, a company in Texas took the concept and took it to a police station in Texas while we were patent-pending, and they started doing demos with it. And the police said that these things would help save some lives, it would help digitally document circumstances in which police officers are using their firearms. They were helping us… that’s who we want to use it. 

 

TSN: Did you pursue legal action?

EMF: I’m not fighting against it. I’m saying, with the patent that we have, we want to participate. We don’t want to sue for infringement, even though we can. We want to participate, because there's a question to the Black community: You’re having these problems, what are you doing to address it? What are you contributing as a resolution to the problem?

As a community, this is one of our resolutions to the shootings in schools, shootings in communities and shootings in stores and shootings by police, and it’s not a Black or White issue. It’s us as a community, as a country: What are we doing about this issue that we have with firearms?

 

TSN: Do you see the gun camera technology being made available to private citizens?

EMF: Yes. Say for instance you’re a single lady, you’ve got your sister’s kids over and you’re cooking and somebody kicks the door open. When you hear it, you have enough time to grab your firearm. When your firearm has a gun camera attached to it, it does exactly what a police officer’s gun would do: Once you pull that firearm from the holster, it records. And so now you have a digital record of what was going on, someone came in your home, you are now defending your family. And it’s on video. 

This is a computer system, not a lone camera. The gun camera is connected to a much larger system that’s connected to a desktop. And a tablet. And the video can be stored in either place. When it goes down and the streaming starts with the gun camera, it goes to the desktop. And from there those files can be shared within a couple of seconds with other people who have responsibility in those fields.

Your computer picks up an important situation that’s life-threatening, and it starts automatically calling 911 and streaming video to dispatch.

That’s the piece that helps you. 

 

TSN: So you’re saying the applicability to citizens could be both to prepare responding law enforcement for what they’re walking into, and also evidence if there is any legal fallout for the person who might have had to shoot in self-defense?

EMF: Absolutely! The other part of it is, you have a record of what happened. Later, when they ask you what happened, you’re going to forget a lot of the details that happened, with adrenaline pumping. But that video is going to take it for you.

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