DERMOT SHEA: 'Much room to improve.'

The NYPD last week rolled out two public data tools on its website as part of an effort to make the department’s operations and police statistics more accessible to residents. 

The interactive displays detailing department demographics and hate-crimes data are but a preface to an ongoing endeavor to enhance and promote transparency, NYPD officials said. 

Moving Away from Paper

The department is also poised to roll out an internal cellphone application that will give commanders and executives the ability to determine the real-time status and location of officers, as well as the department’s civilian workforce, thereby enabling them to quickly deploy NYPD resources where they are needed. 

“The department needed more agility in the way that we positioned our resources,”  Commissioner for Information Technology Matthew Fraser said during a Sept. 10 press conference introducing the program and the additions to the website. “It’s understanding where these people are and what they’re doing.” 

What he called the “digital workforce management system” will, if not altogether replace existing systems, then certainly augment their capabilities, Mr. Fraser said. Assessing “real-time force figures,” he said, will allow rapid deployments without compromising routine patrol operations. 

“So when you think about scheduling or trying to plan for a large demonstration, you can see ahead of time what your force figures look like across the span of a week, and you can make appropriate modifications so that you can increase your workforce without killing your overtime,” Mr. Fraser said. “It’s really a seismic shift in the way we handle resource management.”

Where commanders and executives would comb through logbooks and make innumerable phone calls to disparate commands to ascertain officer assignments and how and from where to move cops to where they are needed, they will now have the ability to do so via their mobile phones. 

Commissioner Dermot Shea called the shift a significant one, with aspects of longtime NYPD culture “coming face to face” with innovation. “And technology is going to win here,” he said. 

“We had much room to improve in terms of how we account for people on a day-to-day basis in real time,” Mr. Shea said. “It gives us an ability and flexibility that we didn’t have before.” 

Just the Start

Mr. Fraser said this “ecosystem of applications” is just the start of adjustments and modifications that will come online in the next 90 days and further out. 

While the innovations have been in the works for months, the onset of the pandemic and then the escalation of protests and tumult in June put them on the fast track, he said. 

“Over the last couple of months, especially since the start of the pandemic, we’ve taken a hard look at our operation and we’ve looked at the way that we provide information,” both internally and to the public, he said.  

The Department’s Deputy Commissioner of Strategic Initiatives, Danielle Pemberton, said the public-facing interactive data tools replaced outmoded information presentations summarized on unwieldy spreadsheets and annual reports with significant time lags. The new open-sourced manner of information delivery will reflect statistics and data closer to real time, she said.  

Where the NYPD previously enumerated static quarterly reports and basic information about hate-crimes incidents and arrests, “now you’re seeing for the first time a comprehensive look at incident-level data,” she said. “This is the start of using data differently at the department and making it more transparent.”

By early next year, the Deputy Commissioners said, residents will be able to make appointments for certain police services, make complaints and secure documents through the department’s website. 

Dashboards detailing force metrics and departmental discipline will also be posted on the website. 

“There’s no reason that when we provide information publicly that you need a data-science degree to work with NYPD data sources,” Mr. Fraser said.

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