NYPD begins handing out iPhones to officers
The department is switching over from Nokia phones to iPhones as they combat crime in the digital age
By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — An old police academy in Gramercy Park has become the city’s newest Apple store — one that only serves an exclusive group of customers.
There are no glass walls and brightly lit tables with the company’s latest products on display to be found. But there’s still a line out the door — of cops waiting for their department iPhones, the NYPD’s latest tool to combat crime in the digital age.
As the department switches over from Nokia phones to iPhones, the rollout has begun in Patrol Borough Manhattan South, which spans from Wall St. to 59th St.
Within the next week, cops covering these neighborhoods will be i-ready to protect and serve, according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Information and Technology Jessica Tisch.
“We’ve been giving out about 600 phones a day,” Tisch said during a recent visit to the rollout center at the old academy on E. 21st St.
“We’re seeing a lot of excitement.”
Citing better security and speed, the iPhones started popping up at local precincts just before Christmas.
Cops in the Bronx and Staten Island already received the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, depending on their screen-size preference.
Once every cop in Manhattan gets one, the rollout will go to Brooklyn, then Queens. The iPhones, much like their Nokia predecessors, mark a quantum leap in policing, where everything from 911 dispatches to criminal background checks and real-time video can be quickly accessed.
The iPhones are also being used to fill out some summonses, accident reports, aided cards and domestic violence reports.
“I truly feel like it’s the ultimate tool to have as a patrol cop,” said Police Officer Christopher Clampitt.
Clampitt, 29, joined the department in 2010, about four years before Mayor de Blasio and former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the NYPD’s $160 million initiative to put a smartphone in every cop’s hand.
Today, 911 dispatches come over the phone before they’re heard on department radios, Clampitt said.
“We get to the location a lot quicker,” he said. “By the time the dispatcher puts out the job (on the radio) we’re already there.”
Last year, Clampitt and his partner, who are assigned to the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park, managed to stop a robbery in progress before the dispatcher put the job out on the radio thanks to their 911 app.
“We were able to affect an arrest,” he said. “If we (had waited for the radio) our response time would have been less and the guy would have gotten away.”
With the smart phones, the NYPD has seen its response times to critical crimes in progress drop by 14%, Tisch said.
The iPhones also allow cops to get videos and surveillance pictures of wanted suspects within minutes of the crime.
“We can just blast that out so everyone on patrol knows what is going on in real time,” said Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct.
The alerts can also be geofenced and sent to all cops in a specific neighborhood, whether they are on duty or off, said Inspector Anthony Tasso, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Strategic Technology Division.
“It’s going to act like a force multiplier,” Tasso said. “You’re not just sending it to people assigned to that precinct, but you are sending it to all our phones in that geographical area.”
The smartphones also have a great deal of institutional knowledge hard-wired into it, Tasso said.
When cops are responding to a job, the phone will automatically provide them with the criminal history of the location, such as how many 911 calls have been at the address in the past and what type of calls. The phone also tells the officers if any wanted felons are at the address.
All of the information is prioritized based on the emergency the officers are responding to. If cops are heading to a location regarding an emotionally disturbed person, all similar data will show up on the information feed first, officials said.
“(The phones) make our cops more efficient, safer and happier,” Hellman said. “It only helps.”
The phones give cops a treasure trove of information at their fingertips, but some officers still find the more traditional apps — the ones iPhone customers use every day — the most beneficial.
Police Officer Wendy Laurore, who graduated from the academy in October, said he wouldn’t be able to get around the 13th Precinct without the phone’s Waze navigation app.
He also likes the 911 app, which gives him a glimpse of what he is waiting for when he responds to a job.
“I like to read the description on the job,” he said. “It gives me a mental preparation as to how you’re going to react when you get there, how you’re going to take care of business.”
The department won’t be paying extra for the new iPhones, which are considered a hardware upgrade under its contract with AT&T.
The Nokia phones won’t be going to the garbage dump either. The department is in the process of wiping data off all the old phones and plans to sell them back to the company.
While many are hailing the new phones, critics only have one thing to say to say: Welcome to the 21st Century, NYPD.
“Nearly three decades after this stuff is pioneered, law enforcement is finally joining the adolescents of America,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former NYPD officer and lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“(The phones) will be invaluable, but it’s shocking these tools have taken so long to get into the hands of cops.”
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