The Police Department has distributed about 400 dedicated Android smartphones to its officers, part of a pilot program begun quietly last summer. The phones, which cannot make or receive calls, enable officers on foot patrol, for the first time, to look up a person’s criminal history and verify their identification by quickly gaining access to computerized arrest files, police photographs, and state Department of Motor Vehicles databases.The technology offers extraordinary levels of detail about an individual, including whether the person has ever been “a passenger in a motor vehicle accident,” a victim of a crime or in one instance, a drug suspect who has been known by the police to hide crack cocaine “in his left sock,” according to Officer Donaldson.
The app provides:
access to the names of every resident with an open warrant, arrest record or previous police summons; each apartment with a prior domestic incident report; all residents with orders of protection against them; registered gun owners; and the arrest photographs of every parolee in the building. The officers could even find every video surveillance camera, whether mounted at the corner deli or on housing property, that was directed at the building.
If police are going to have access to this kind of information on the taxpayer's dime, then the public should have access to it as well.