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Should Police Officers Be Armed With iPads?

By Andrew Lu on December 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New York City courts are overloaded. There are long delays to resolve cases and many cases are dismissed or are pleaded to much lesser offenses due to mistakes and inefficiencies. Would giving iPads to police officers solve this problem?

In a recent The New York Times op-ed piece, a law student stated the case for giving the popular consumer device to police officers. He argued how arming cops with tablets would promote the efficiency of the justice system, lower costs, and reduce errors.

Here are three ways an iPad can help, as argued by law student Steve Cohen:

  1. iPads can replace scratch pads. When a police officer makes an arrest, the officer typically whips out his pad and takes handwritten notes on "scratch" forms. These forms are often given to clerks to decipher and enter into a database. The forms will then be faxed to the prosecutor's office, where another set of clerks will re-enter the data into another database. In this messy process, information can get lost, obscured, and misinterpreted. Having an officer enter his notes directly into an iPad at the scene can cut down on such errors.

  2. Confirm witness/victim statements. One of the biggest sources of court delays (and case dismissals) is that prosecutors have trouble getting victims, witnesses, and police officers to sign statements. About 15 percent of all misdemeanors were dismissed because prosecutors had difficulty reconnecting with victims and witnesses, writes Cohen. With an iPad, police officers can accurately and efficiently record descriptions of events. These statements could then be digitized into text and shown to the witness and victim. Mistakes could be immediately corrected and a digital signature secured.

  3. Manage documents in the criminal justice system. It can be a time-consuming nightmare to access certain documents in the New York criminal justice system. With today's technology, there should be no reason why pertinent information cannot be digitized and accessed on an iPad.

While giving an iPad to police officers does make sense, Cohen also notes some concerns about using the device. This can include the security of keeping this sensitive data on a handheld device as well as the security of the police Internet system.

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