Thousands of NYPD patrol officers will soon be armed with tablet computers that can give them instantaneous crime-fighting data, part of a $160 million program paid for with funds from a massive penalty against the French bank BNP Paribas, officials said Thursday.
At a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. touted the plan to outfit the nation's largest police department with 6,000 tablets and 35,000 other handheld computers as a way to enhance officer efficiency and public safety. They said it would allow officers in the field to run immediate background checks on suspects and locations, and the department to keep the force up to speed on the latest terror threats.
"I cannot over-exaggerate the benefits," Bratton said.
Funding is coming from a nearly $9 billion settlement earlier this year in which BNP Paribas admitted concealing transactions at its Manhattan-based branches for Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban clients. Authorities had alleged that some of the transactions helped fund terrorism.
"There's a direct link to the war on terrorism here. ... There's a perfect symmetry here," the mayor said.
The NYPD began testing a tablet with a rugged design, the Panasonic Toughbook, in patrol cars earlier this year. The devices were programmed to give officers access a mobile version of the Domain Awareness System — a network designed to detect and prevent terrorist acts using live video feeds and other technology — as well as arrest records, outstanding warrants, texts of 911 calls and other information in real time.
Authorities said the tablets could make for in fewer arrests on low-level offenses by allowing officers to confirm identities and records of offenders without having to take them to a police station. Instead, offenders would be ticketed and released on the spot.
Use of the tablets would be closely monitored and restricted to officers assigned individual user names and passwords, Bratton said. The department has seen a spate of cases of officers illegally accessing law enforcement databases, including one announced Wednesday charging an officer with accepting bribes from a private investigator seeking the criminal records of government witnesses.