LOWER MANHATTAN — Police officers will have access to real time information through handheld tablets and smart phones under a $160 million NYPD initiative to provide 41,000 devices to members of the force.
The NYPD Mobility Initiative will outfit 6,000 police cars with rugged tablet computers as well as give 35,000 handheld devices to every police officer that will allow them to access real-time 911 data, wanted posters, missing persons photos and, eventually, fingerprint scanning in the field.
"Christmas has come early. The holiday season has come early for the NYPD and this city," said Police Commissioner William Bratton.
Bratton said the new technology would have been useful in the recent case of a missing 95-year-old man who was found dead in Central Park Thursday.
"If we had this technology, as soon as that elderly gentleman went missing every cop in this city, every traffic agent, every school security officer, would have had his picture and description and maybe we might have been able to find him before unfortunately whatever the circumstances were of his death," said Bratton.
Approximately $90 million of the money for the improvements was provided by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office from its $440 million share of an $8.83 billion settlement with BNP Paribas S.A., the largest bank in France, for hiding and transferring money for countries such as Sudan, Iran and Cuba, in violation of U.S. sanctions.
The settlement was reached in July. The city is committing $70 million in asset forfeiture funds from the same settlement.
Vance said giving the NYPD money to upgrade its technology is a good investment for his office because it will increase the speed and accuracy of information exchange with police.
"By giving police officers in the field tools generally only available at the precinct, they will have in the field as much information as possible to make the best, most-informed decisions," said Vance.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that will likely mean less arrests.
"It's also going to allow us to not have to bring as many people into the station house. It's going to allow us to do more summonses and fewer arrests where appropriate," said de Blasio.
Jessica Tisch, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of information and technology, demonstrated the strength of one of the proposed tablets, a Panasonic Toughbook, when she purposely dropped it on the floor a few times.
Forty officers are currently testing the tablets in a pilot program and Tisch said she hopes for hundreds more officers to have the tablets by January.
Other changes coming include a $20 million fiber optic upgrade at the NYPD's more than 200 facilities to allow information to be sent out in real time. All 50,00 of the NYPD's employees will now receive an email address. Only 20,000 of the NYPD's 50,000 employees currently have an NYPD email address, officials said.