Jim Onalfo’s first day as CIO of the New York City Police Department was nearly his last. Coaxed out of retirement by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2003, Onalfo stepped into a mess. From an IT perspective, the department was woefully understaffed and worst of all, it lacked a viable disaster recovery plan.
The lack of disaster recovery gave Onalfo second thoughts about his new job, but he stepped up instead of walking out, bringing to bear skills he’d honed as CIO of blue-chip companies like General Foods and Kraft. With backing from Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Onalfo pushed through a disaster recovery initiative that had languished for years. To alleviate staff shortages, contracts were structured so that vendors continued to support major projects long after deployment.
Eight years later, Onalfo’s record boasts an impressive string of accomplishments. In 2006, the NYPD opened its Real Time Crime Center, a sort-of mission control for city police. The $12 million facility taps into 36 information databases, including emergency calls, crime reports, criminal records and police vehicle locations. It’s a one-stop shop for crime data and analysis that’s available to all officers and detectives. The department also launched an online case management tool for detectives, completed a long-awaited evidence tracking system and implemented facial recognition technology.
That record, accomplished in one of the nation’s most complex bureaucracies, is a testament to Onalfo’s skill and tenacity.