When police officers from Boston’s gang, narcotics, and fugitive units hit the streets after July 4 they will be armed with new 21st-century crime-fighting tools: 100 iPads.
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis unveiled the fourth-generation iPads at a news conference Friday afternoon along with John F. Fish, the chief executive of Suffolk Construction Co., who donated the tablets at a cost of about $80,000.
“This improves our situational awareness, it improves our officers’ safety, and it makes us more effective and efficient by getting information to the fingertips of police officers who need it most out in the field,” Davis said. “It really does move us into the 21st century.”
The devices will allow officers on the street to wirelessly access police databases, check for warrants, and use mapping software to examine crime scenes, said Officer Jarrod Gero, a member of the department’s drug control unit, as he demonstrated the applications for reporters Friday.
Officers will also be able to access social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which can help search for missing persons, Gero said.
“[These are] valuable tools we are able to use out on the streets, not just back at the office,” Gero said.
The lightweight iPads will speed up the routine tasks of officers, he said, adding that most unmarked police cars used by the three units do not have computers inside them.
Police cars with computers still have limited bandwidth that restricts what kind of applications they can use, Davis said.
Fish said he made the donation after Davis told him that the department wanted to deploy new technologies but lacked funding.
Fish said his company previously distributed 1,250 iPads to his employees throughout the country and marveled at their increased efficiency.
He said he wanted to give the public sector the same opportunity the business sector has to experiment with new technologies.
“I felt very, very strongly this was something that could truly benefit the city of Boston,” Fish said. “Once people have the opportunity to use iPads they will realize the efficiency, the productivity, and the thoughtfulness that can be created.”
Detectives in the Lowell Police Department have been using iPads for the last year and patrol officers will soon receive them as well, said Captain Kelly Richardson, a spokesman for that department.
Lowell officers have used the devices to access police records and quickly upload documents into databases from the street, he said. Officers have also used the tablets to rapidly distribute videos of crimes as officers search for suspects.
“It has really been a great tool for us,” he said.