This year, the biggest police force in the country will depend even more heavily on technological resources, using strategies both uncontroversial and divisive that have the backing of Mayor Eric Adams.
We are changing the status quo. During a “State of the NYPD” address on Wednesday morning, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell outlined her tech-focused plan, saying, “The NYPD is going to be the most accessible police force in the world.”
Sewell revealed his intention to create a mobile app that would update consumers on public safety situations in real-time. She highlighted NYPD-produced footage of officers’ field operations and demonstrated the department’s new fleet of patrol vehicles equipped with 360-degree cameras. The commissioner presented the plan to the police brass and business leaders during the annual breakfast hosted by the New York City Police Foundation. Adams, a former captain in the New York Police Department, was also present at the black-tie affair held at Cipriani in Midtown.
Sewell said the new app will make it easier for New Yorkers to see accident records, report crimes, and find their local precincts. In order to do this, it would use augmented reality, a technique that uses computer-generated pictures superimposed on real-world environments.
There’s so much more that can be done with the cell phones we offer our cops,” she said. In the near future, cops will be able to get real-time information on known circumstances, desired people, and risks by putting up their phones and using an augmented reality program.
Adams has made increasing public safety a priority of his administration, and he recently told POLITICO, “Big Brother is protecting you.”
But on one hotly disputed topic, he and Sewell have opposing views.
Adams has promised to increase the use of face recognition software, which proponents claim will aid in crime solving but opponents worry would infringe on civil liberties and erroneously target people of color. After saying in February that he planned to depend on it more, Adams has been rather quiet about it. But in a recent interview with 1010 WINS, he stressed its usefulness once again, suggesting that it may help in combatting stealing.
Nonetheless, Sewell had a different opinion on the matter.
When questioned about face recognition after her speech, she told reporters, “We have no intentions to broaden it at this time.”
As Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, put it, “we’ve seen time and time again that the NYPD cannot police itself” via the department’s use of surveillance drones, widespread face recognition technology, and other intrusive policing practices. To ensure compliance with the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, “as it seeks to deploy new applications to the officer and civilian phones, the Department has to be clear about its strategy for these technologies and how they will retain and secure New Yorkers’ data.” Any technology employed by the NYPD should be subject to public examination and review to ensure the privacy and safety of New Yorkers “, she said in an official statement.
In addition to improving morale in an agency seeing an exceptionally large drop in staff, Sewell revealed intentions to better avail citizens of the NYPD’s CompStat data by stating that each commander would be asked to provide a strategy for community participation. According to a November 2018 article in The New York Times, around 1,225 officers have resigned before reaching the five-year mark in their careers.
According to NYPD data, although gunshots and killings decreased during Adams’ first year in office, total crime increased by 23 percent. Voters’ top worry, according to public opinion surveys, is crime, both real and imagined.
Sewell aimed to cast a bright light on the data by pointing out that arrests are up and the detective bureau’s clearance rate is “extraordinary.” The mayor’s office predicted at the end of 2018 that by 2022, the NYPD will solve 83% of all homicide cases.
Sewell said, “It was and still is a hard struggle, but we are conditioned for it.” And the NYPD is doing all of this with personnel numbers at their lowest point since 2014.