It may seem like police officers have access to everything from their in-car computers and helpful dispatchers, but we are learning that this is not always the case. A new pilot program being tested by the NYPD is giving its officers Android AT&T phones with a custom app that allows them to access information, which was unavailable, incomplete or took a long time to receive using previous methods.
The app represents one entry point where cops can log in and access multiple databases that used to require multiple logins and passwords. Cops on foot can now access files from police records, the DMV etc. instantly.
When investigating the past of an individual, cops can access previous offences, arrest warrants (and what they are for), on-file pictures, and even someone’s repeated behavior when confronted by cops or when trying to hide something from the police. Non-criminal files can also be accessed for an individual such as involvement in traffic accidents, orders of protection and crimes committed against them.
A glimps at the app in action (via Benjamin Norman & The New York Times)
When called for a domestic disturbance, the police can use the app to see if there were previous calls and what the problem was then. Searching an address on the app shows all of the previous offences, arrests and other useful records tied to that location such as registered gun owners and car registrations.
The app uses the phone’s GPS to extract information on individuals of interest in the area and the immediate environment. At any location, the app will tell of known suspects that live or visit the area, where registered gun owners live and where parolees reside nearby. Supposedly, the app can also tell the police where the nearest CCTV surveillance cameras are located and where they are pointed to resolve crimes more quickly.
This new tech will save the NYPD a lot of time and resources as cops no longer have to call dispatch to check on an individual’s records. Smartphones are cheaper and faster than in-car computers and cops that use bikes, horses or patrol on foot can use them. In turn, this enhances policing capabilities and also saves taxpayer money.
There are some concerns about these phones getting into the wrong hands but no announcement as to how this type of situation would be prevented or resolved. Also, some worry that the app could be used to target known offenders that may have no involvement in a crime in their area.
Since the pilot program began last summer, 400 officers have received this smartphone (which appears to be a Rugby Smart Samsung). The phones cannot make or receive calls and texts at the moment but this may change as the phone becomes more widely used.
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