New York Police To Launch A Totally Reliable iOS App To Log Police Activity That Will Definitely Work As Intended

New York Police To Launch A Totally Reliable iOS App To Log Police Activity That Will Definitely Work As Intended
Officers investigating the scene of an attack in Chinatown that killed four homeless people and wounded another in October 2019. (Photo: Jeenah Moon, AP)

The New York Police Department is replacing the memo books used by over 30,000 officers to track everything from patrol assignments and emergency calls to arrest records with an iOS app, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The NYPD has used the memo books for over a century and still prints 10,000 of them a month, but they’re being replaced on Feb. 17, 2020 with iPhones using an app that connects to department databases. As the Times noted, the memo books have historically been important not just for officers to log their time on the job but as a record of law enforcement perspective on cases in court. NYPD officials “say the transition will help eliminate possible abuses, such as faking entries, and having to sort through indecipherable handwriting,” the paper wrote, with Deputy Chief Anthony Tasso of the Information Technology Bureau saying that it will allow instant access to records that might have formerly been in somebody’s locker.

“It gives us the abilities we did not have before, when memo books were left in officers’ lockers and we didn’t have access to a vast amount of information,” Tasso told the Times. Supervisors will also be able to monitor their subordinates and sign off on their records remotely, while information like “patrol shifts, their police vehicles, 911 responses and other information, including photos” will be recorded in a standardised format, according to the paper.

Using an app won’t prevent officers from entering false information, or, say, highly biased information, though former NYPD detective and famous whistleblower Frank Serpico told the Times it may prevent tricks like leaving empty gaps in memo pages to later be filled in. There’s also other potential implications, such as whether the app will work correctly (surely nothing could go wrong!) or if it could expose the department to cyber attacks or data breaches.

Last year, the NYPD was forced to temporarily shut down its fingerprint database after a contractor reportedly plugged a notoriously aggressive about countering any claims of abusive practices.