By GCN Staff

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New York City police outside a building

What good's an Android that can't make calls? For NYPD, plenty.

New York City police are piloting a somewhat novel use of Android smart phones, using them on the beat the same way they would use the laptop PCs in their cruisers.

NYPD has distributed about 400 Androids to officers as part of a program that started in 2012, the New York Times reports. Police with phones is nothing new, of course, but these phones can’t make or receive calls. Instead, they’re used to access databases of information on everything from criminal records, existing warrants, registered gun owners and motor vehicle records.

The Times, for example, went to a 14-story apartment building in a housing project with officers who were able to call up thousands of records related to residents in the building. Police told the Times that the Android apps gives them more complete information, and does it more quickly, than they get from radioing to a dispatcher, or even from the laptops in patrol cars, which can have spotty Internet connections.

New York is among the cities testing a variety of innovative technologies to help lower crimes rate. NYPD has developed what it calls the Dashboard, which pulls in data and imagery from about 3,000 surveillance cameras and other sensors, and combines them with data on 911 calls, arrests and other records to give police a clear operational picture. In early 2012, the city also was testing a long-range scanner technology that could “frisk” people on the street for concealed weapons.

On other fronts, police in the Bay Area around San Francisco have been testing phones that actually make calls, but with a software system that gives military-grade security to their communications. And during last year’s Republican National Convention, police in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., tested a first-of-its-kind LTE cellular network dedicated to law enforcement as part of security operations.

Posted by Kevin McCaney on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Tue, May 28, 2013 w

This is a good example of giving the officer the right data in the right format. Using small & mobile devices is only as effective as the applications and data presented on them. It certainly doesn't hurt that they can access their own video feeds. To the comment about slow radio, that is not a factor here. Most officers have laptops and cellular devices that are at least at 3G speeds if not already moving to 4G/LTE. If your agency has a private WiFi network, you can do that also. The real problem is that so many law enforcement agencies are reinventing the wheel: we need standards and a few R&D centers like NYC and Los Angeles that then share their developments with the rest of the U.S.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 c

How is this any different than a laptop in the vehicle or any less dangerous. Data over the radio system is slow - especially for agencies who are still running radio systems from 98/earlier. They are slated in the next couple of years to upgrade which might include faster data, but more than likely the agency has moved towards cellular air cards which without a good VPN solution it can be a pain. We forget that dispatchers not only take the call from the person on the street but also relay all that info to fire/ems/police agencies, on top of that they do provide life saving instructions (CPR, etc) Having a secondary means of lookup is good espcially for the officer on their feet - which carrying a huge mobile data terminal is not feasible, although in some instances - no cellular/data service no lookup. I can guess that the phones are using a blanket of wifi that is in the city? I don't believe the article is very clear on what kind of data plan is on the phones (cellular v. wifi->vpn or just plain wifi) Dispatch centers are understaffed and over stressed and yet they manage to do an amazing job. That's just the people, keeping up with technology is hard for a PSAP - texting, cellular locationing, etc. We'll never always be up to date so it is up to our dispatchers to do all that. It is National Dispatchers Week too - so kudos to all dispatchers! :) The headset idea is pretty cool but I have to respectfully disagree on it being functional unless a lot of technological changes happen to make it workable.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 c

This is amazing technology, the problem is not every state is allowing this right now. I wish they would though, the minute it's available here I plan to try to get it implemented.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 Charles Hollywood, Florida

I'm a big fan of data, big or small. But data is nothing without someone to make sense of it. And Police Officers are already busy with lots of law enforcement stuff so I don't see the benefit of giving them even more stuff to try and work on or with. Yes, having the information could mean the difference between life or death, but having an officer looking down at the device trying to comprehend the data could also mean the difference between life or death. You can't see the bad guy if you are blue-facing the data to find the bad guy. This is one of those cases where I think Science Fiction did it better.... Officer(s) on the street with an earpiece in which a 'controller' is feeding them the information in real time. Someone sits in a computer room with all the data and feeds the important bits to the officer as they need it.

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