This is NYPD's official crime-fighting phone

Inspector Anthony Tasso, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Strategic Technology division, logs into his phone using his police ID.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Across New York City, more officers are staring at their phones.

On a single day last week, 5,500 NYPD officers logged in and clicked on 39,000 notifications.

But they’re not distracted from work. Those notifications were 911 calls. Crimes that would have just disappeared into the vast void of police reports are being solved more frequently, after officers adopted their official NYPD phones.

That’s right, the NYPD is finally -- finally! -- catching up with the modern mobile age and equipping its officers with smartphones, nearly a decade after the first iPhone came out. The NYPD began rolling out its first handsets for the city’s 36,000 police officers in April 2015, and finished equipping the entire force earlier this year. Now, new officers at the New York City Police Academy in College Point, Queens, get phones along with their guns and badges.

As the advent of smarter phones have improved our daily lives, these handsets have likewise made it easier for the city’s finest to fight crime. Officers are able to respond to 911 calls faster, solve crimes more efficiently and create stronger ties to their community.

So what are the phones of choice for the men and women entrusted to guard the safety of the 8.4 million residents of New York?

The Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL.

You read that right. Life and death situations rely on outdated phones running on Microsoft’s Windows Phone software.

The unlikely choice

You may knock the unpopular Windows Phone platform, which commands less than 1 percent of the phone market, but the NYPD believes Microsoft was the most appropriate way to go.

The department looked at Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but picked Windows Phone for its security features, and the ability to remotely manage the thousands of devices being handed out.

The NYPD can also point to tangible benefits. In one case, a fare-beating passenger who ran out of a taxi likely would have gotten away with it if the responding officers didn’t have their phones on them.

“We probably would have taken a report, and it probably would’ve never had any further investigation,” said Inspector Anthony Tasso, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Strategic Technology division.

Instead, officers were able to use the database on their phones to learn that the thief was hiding in his girlfriend’s apartment building right next to where he had run off in Rockaway, Queens.

The thief had used the driver’s phone to call his girlfriend before fleeing. Officers ran a search through the NYPD’s system with the phone number, and found her address through a previous criminal record.

Before the phones were rolled out, an officer would have had to run the phone numbers through a database from a computer, rather than just a few taps on their phones.

Strengthening community ties

Among all the fancy apps and high-tech additions, the phone’s most basic function is what’s been helping police-community relations the most, calling.

Before the phones were issued, officers didn’t have a work email or phone number they could give out to people who needed their help in follow-up incidents.

At the time, it was against NYPD policy to give out their personal contact information. Victims who wanted to contact the specific officers who took their report would have to call the precinct and leave a message, sometimes to voice mailboxes shared by entire squads.


The NYPD’s phones come with custom apps to help fight crime.

Sarah Tew/CNET

“It was much more difficult,” said Jessica Tisch, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for information technology. “It really made our officers less accessible to the public.”

In a case on Staten Island, Tasso recalled officers giving out their phone numbers to a teen following a robbery, in case he saw the thieves again. The next night, the boy did. After he dialed 911, he called the officers on their phones.

Those officers arrived first and were able to catch the thieves on the spot.

“It’s gone a long way, not only for the officers to be more effective, but also to build community trust,” Tasso said.

When they were first introduced, older officers had been skeptical of the devices, some even worried they were being tracked with the phones. The phones also have had a tough time dealing with the daily wear and tear police officers go through every day, leading to broken devices in the line of duty. A handful of the phones are lost every week.

The NYPD is testing new devices, and plans to upgrade to a Windows 10 phone by next summer. Along with security, the department is looking into battery life and processor speed as important features.

The next smartphone will have to be able to handle the department’s vision for new apps, like a connection to the city’s array of security cameras, or two-way digital dispatch.

“We’ve spent the past year and a half building out a platform, getting the data in order, and giving out the devices,” Tisch said. “Now that we have that platform, and it’s 36,000 officers strong, we plan to continue to build on it.”

Here are the apps that the NYPD and Microsoft helped develop for its officers:

911: Officers are able to get 911 calls directly, without waiting for dispatchers to read the report. It’s cut response times for crimes in progress by 12 percent from 2015.

Search: The app allows officers to comb through names, NYPD records, license plates, warrants, or any other details stored within its police database. “I call it the Google of NYPD data,” Tisch said.

Crime Information Center: A bulletin board with wanted fliers, missing persons and safety alerts. When police first started using the phones, Tasso said a series of burglaries broke out near the 100th Precinct in Queens. The suspects were caught after the precinct commander used the app to tell officers in the area to look for a white van.

Messaging: Police send messages based on their assignments, rankings, precinct or location. The sender can set the messages to go out to a specific, geo-fenced location. The NYPD has used this for events like the Thanksgiving Parade, and in emergencies like the Chelsea bombing near 23rd Street in September.

DD5: Otherwise known as the Case Management System, it’s a digital notepad for detectives used for complaint follow-ups. The name comes from old slang for “document detectives file.”

Forms: Officers use this app to fill out paperwork now, filing accident reports, domestic violence reports and aiding reports. It’s the first step in the NYPD’s move to go paperless.

NYPD U: Cops can watch training videos, slideshows and take quizzes straight from their phones to stay up to date on the department’s latest policies. In the past, cops would have to head back to the police academy in Queens for the new training.

This article originally appeared on