New York PolicePosted 2002-09-10 Email Print
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A year after Sept. 11, law enforcement far too often finds itself left alone on the front line of defense.: 'Technologically Bereft' Operation Fragile">
New York Police: 'Technologically Bereft' Operation Fragile
The job might be biggest at One Police Plaza in New Yorkthe department's headquarters in lower Manhattan, which, until last September, sat in the shadows of the World Trade Center's twin towers. Deficiencies can be found in every area of the way the department communicates and manages the combined knowledge of its 40,000 crime fighters.
"As far as IT systems, we're woefully inadequate," admits Garry McCarthy, New York's deputy commissioner of operations, and the NYPD's top strategist.
After visits to precinct houses, "ride-alongs" with patrol officers, and interviews with almost 50 current and former police officers, from every rank and from every corner of the city, a Baseline review finds fragile information and communications capabilities throughout the department.
Bernard Kerik, who was commissioner of the department at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, says he was so fed up with just trying to get new PCs to the precincts that he had his Chief of Patrol, William Morange, one of the department's highest ranking officers, personally drop off computers to precincts he visited. "He was the highest-paid deliveryman in the city of New York," Kerik says.
William Bratton, New York City police commissioner from 1994 to 1996, calls the NYPD "one of the most technologically bereft departments" in the country.
But New York cops say their biggest headache is the scattered collection of 65 databases in the department.
The minimally organized array of electronic files keeps online everything from reports on criminal investigations, to records of arrests, to tracking numbers on impounded autos.
Yet only two of the systems, the complaint and arrest databases, have been tied together in a system that can be queried and searched at one time by investigators. That system, called Omniform, is just now being deployed.
"A thorough check [of a suspect or activity] could take hours," says New York Detective Robert "Bobby" Medoro of the 13th Precinct in Manhattan. "You have to constantly log off and log on to systems. And you can't be logged on to two databases at the same time. It's tedious."
Not surprisingly, the inability to efficiently gather the complete background on a suspect or an investigation makes it difficult to bring a criminal to justice, New York officers say.
"When a jurisdiction does not have an automated manner to link seemingly unrelated pieces of information or evidence together, then there is a greater chance that clues are overlooked and cases go unsolved," says Howard Baker, who oversaw the department's computer and communications system from mid-1998 to mid-2001.
"When all of these systems are interlinked, then we can use [crime analysis software] to seek out the relationships of disassociated pieces of information in different and sometimes disparate systems, so that the analysts can draw logical conclusions and present these reports to the law enforcement experts for further follow up and exam."