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New York City Names Police IT Leader Jessica Tisch New CIO

Tisch has led IT efforts for NYPD for six years, and has overseen the rollout of smartphones, tablets and body cameras for the largest police department in the country. Now she will steer citywide technology.

by / December 5, 2019
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The nation’s biggest city has a new CIO.

Jessica Tisch, who has led the New York City Police Department’s IT Bureau for about six years, will become commissioner of the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) on Dec. 9, according to the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Tisch will take over for Eusebio Formoso, who has been leading the department in an interim capacity since former CIO Samir Saini left for the private sector in June.

At the police department, Tisch has established a history of taking on large, sweeping IT projects. She first joined in 2008, working for the Counterterrorism Bureau where she immediately jumped into the effort to connect thousands upon thousands of cameras, license plate readers and other sensors into one big network.

Today, that network is called the Domain Awareness System, and it also includes gunshot detection, GPS locators for police vehicles and chemical sensors.

“Really when I was working in counterterrorism, I was working on a massive IT system integration program,” Tisch said.

She was also behind the department’s rollout of smartphones, tablets and body-worn cameras for its police officers.

“Giving all of the cops smartphones … really revolutionized policing,” she said. “The smartphones have a bunch of apps that really changed the NYPD’s business processes, everything from how they respond to [dispatch calls] to how they investigate crimes.”

Former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill agreed that the phones have had a major impact.

“Quite simply, under Jessie Tisch’s leadership, the NYPD went from last to first in policing technology,” O’Neill said in a prepared statement. “Going from essentially the technological Stone Age to the era of modern, cutting edge innovation took unbridled determination and unmatched skill. That’s what Jessie brings to her work.  As a result of her leadership, technology has proven to be a key enabler of the agency’s most critical initiatives, Neighborhood Policing first and foremost.”

All that work was not without its hiccups. The smartphone program initially consisted of some 36,000 Nokia phones with Microsoft software; Microsoft later stopped supporting the software and the NYPD was forced to replace them.

In defense of the program, Tisch wrote a blog post pointing out that the phones themselves were free, the project was under budget and the contract allowed for replacing the devices after two years.

There’s also the matter of the text-to-911 program, which seeks to help the hearing impaired access 911. The program, in the works for years, saw its completion delayed as tension between the DoITT and NYPD mounted and tests crashed the system, according to The City.

The city expects to roll out 911 texting next year, and Tisch said the episode hasn’t damaged the relationship between NYPD and DoITT.

“No, definitely not. We work very collaboratively with the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, and with the Fire Department, as well as with Cyber Command, which is the NYPD’s three partners with the 911 system in general … and I think that everyone agrees that text-to-911 is so important, we have to get it right,” Tisch said. “We cannot roll out a system that is not right.”

She said seeing that project through, as well as expanding 311, will be among her first priorities in her new role.

“Coming from the police department, text-to-911 is very important to me, as well as next-generation 911,” Tisch said. “But there are lots of other things that that agency does. There are huge opportunities to continue to build out the new 311 CRM platform that recently went live. I am looking forward to building out the city’s IT infrastructure, so expanding the data center, beefing up the network, and really looking to rolling up my sleeves and working with other agencies’ data-sharing initiatives and ways that different agencies can collaborate with each other.”

Tisch hails from a family with deep ties to the city, and one that co-owns the New York Giants football team, as well as runs New York-based holding company Loews Corp.

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Ben Miller Associate Editor of GT Data and Business

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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