Leaks about US government surveillance by Edward Snowden have killed off the ability for coppers to use powerful new technologies such as drones and mobile license plate readers.
According to Reuters, top cop Vernon Keenan moaned to the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and said that the disclosures, including monitoring of phone records, threaten to erode existing authority to use high-tech gear.
Keenan said that while the NSA was getting a good kicking from the press, that scrutiny filtered down to ordinary cops who just want to lock up ordinary criminals.
For many new technologies, there is no clear legal standard to govern their use, Keenan said and if people are not careful law enforcement will lose the use of technology.
Coppers wanted things like advanced facial recognition software, mobile licence plate readers and unmanned aircraft.
Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey told the conference that such advances will be "both the benefactor and the curse of policing".
He said it is important to remember that just because police have the technology to do something does not mean they have to do it.