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NYPD Equips Officers With Biometric Smartphones

A new $160 million program will track police officers via GPS and give every officer a mobile fingerprint scanner.

by / October 24, 2014
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Flickr/Kevin Case
New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioFlickr/Kevin Case

New York Police Department officers and vehicles are to be outfitted with new technology as part of a $160 million program that will lead to fewer arrests and more summonses after being fully implemented next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Oct. 23.

All 35,000 NYPD officers will be equipped with smartphones that allow officers to search databases, view wanted posters and scan suspects’ fingerprints. An additional 6,000 NYPD vehicles are to be equipped with tablets that have similar functionality. The NYPD will also be able to track its officers via GPS, and monitor the officers’ use of their phones and tablets.
"You can literally, with this technology, take a fingerprint on a street corner," de Blasio said at a news conference.
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, recognized the potential of such devices to reduce arrests, but warned that fingerprinting programs need strict safeguards to avoid abuse.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton acknowledged that tracking police officers could raise an issue with police labor unions, but added that some past objections, like the introduction of name tags, faded over time. GPS could also help keep officers safe, he pointed out.
The program is to be funded entirely by criminal forfeiture money.

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