To find illegal concealed firearms, police have always had to pat down suspects by hand. "But science is now promising to assist such human efforts," says Al Baker in The New York Times. The New York City Police Foundation is working with the Defense Department to develop an innovative, hands-free scanning technology to help officers spot concealed weapons more easily. How would it work? Here's what you need to know:

What would the new technology do?
It's a new type of scanner that allows police to see guns and other weapons hidden underneath a person's clothing — without the need for frisking. It works by detecting a specific type of radiation emitted by a person's body. That energy is incapable of passing through metal — such as a gun — and the scanner would reveal where the weapon is hiding like a "reverse infrared mapping tool," says Baker.

How would it work in practice?
Currently, the technology would have to be mounted on a police vehicle, with a short range of 13 feet. But police hope to improve the technology to work up to 80 feet away.

Why spend the time to develop this?
In theory, a hands-off device would help curb the "controversial stop-and-frisk practice," which saw a 13 percent increase in 2011, according to The Huffington Post. The NYPD "has come under fire from civil liberty groups claiming stop-and-frisks unfairly discriminate against blacks and latinos" — the New York Civil Liberties Union says nine out of ten of those stopped are found innocent. 

And this is better?
Well, this might provide NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly with "an elegant solution to sidestep the controversy over his department's stop-and-frisk policy," says John Del Signore at Gothamist. On the one hand, if the technology works as billed, "New York City should see its stop-and-frisk rate drop by a half-million people a year," says NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "On the other hand, the ability to walk down the street free from a virtual police pat-down is a matter of privacy."

Sources: Gothamist, Huffington Post, Associated Press, NY Times