Oct 28 2014

New York City's $160 Million Plan: Give Every Cop a Smartphone

For the first time, all officers in the field will have mobile access to real-time 911 data and most department databases.

The New York City Police Department is embracing mobility in a big way.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton last week unveiled a $160 million initiative that will put up to 41,000 mobile devices, including 6,000 Panasonic FZ-G1 tablets and smartphones, in the hands of every police officer and in thousands of patrol cars. For the first time, officers in the field will have access to real-time 911 data and most department databases at their fingertips.

Speaking at an Oct. 23 news conference, Bratton said the mobile rollout is the first in a series of transformative criminal justice investments that will promote fairness and safety and better equip officers to fight crime and terrorism. “By giving police officers in the field tools generally only available at the precinct, they will have as much information as possible to make the most informed decisions,” the city said in a news release.

Before an officer enters a building, they should know what 911 calls are tied to that location, if guns are registered to anyone in that building and whether registered sex offenders are there, Bratton said. The mobile devices will arm them with that knowledge and other timely data.

The department has not decided what brand of smartphone officers will use.

Jessica Tisch, deputy commissioner for information and technology, said that about 40 officers are piloting the tablets and that she hopes to have a few hundred more tablets out by the start of next year. At the news conference, Mayor de Blasio added that the goal is to “get this as fully implemented next year as possible.”

Next year, the department hopes to enhance mobility by integrating fingerprint scanning so officers can verify a person’s identity in the field. For now, in addition to expanded department database search capabilities and 911 call history access, the mobile technology will include:

Detective Support

Detectives working cases in the field will have access to the full range of investigative databases, creating a virtual portable Real Time Crime Center. The detectives will be tied in to the department’s Enterprise Case Management System, allowing them to review and update case information in the field.

Direct and Decentralized Communications

Field officers will be able to receive wanted posters, Amber Alerts and missing persons photos immediately, enhancing the potential for more timely arrests, victim recoveries and rescues.

Enhanced Communication

To improve department communications, every officer will get an email address .

Counterterrorism Force Multiplier

The ability to promptly alert field officers will particularly benefit counterterrorism efforts. Alerts will be transmitted directly to officers in the field through their electronic devices, providing critical information and updates in a timely and coordinated manner.