NYPD dumps old handwritten memo books for new iPhone app

One of the New York City Police Department’s most-used item since the 1800s is the handwritten memo book activity log. Now a new NYPD iPhone app is replacing it.

Corey Kilgannon for The New York Times:

NYPD iPhone app: Officers filling out memo books at a recent roll call at the 90th Precinct Station House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Officers filling out memo books at a recent roll call at the 90th Precinct Station House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
The memo book may be the department’s oldest policing tool, one that has appeared in countless movies and television shows and become as much of a staple as the gun, handcuffs or the nightstick. But they are about to become a thing of the past.

The department is retiring handwritten memo books by Feb. 17 in a transition to a digital version — an app on officers’ department-issued iPhones. Instead of making entries by hand, whether with flowery script from ink-dipped pens in Victorian-era New York or ballpoints today, officers will type in their notes, which the app will send to a department database… Now the department, not the officer, will keep that information. Officers and department officials may search entries — those made since the transition, anyway — by date or keyword, instead of rummaging for old memo books stored in lockers.

Since the department began issuing smartphones in 2015, some 37,000 iPhones are now in use, he said, adding that the phones give officers the ability do quick searches themselves of department databases, instead of waiting for busy radio dispatchers to relay information. The app, which the department developed and tested with input from its officers, has fields for officers to enter details about their patrol shifts, their police vehicles, 911 responses and other information, including photos.

MacDailyNews Take: This new NYPD iPhone app will obviously be a major improvement as the data will be legible and readily accessible whenever it’s needed, plus it will prevent abuse. As Kilgannon reports, “Frank Serpico, the former police detective who helped expose corruption decades ago, called memo books ineffective monitors of officers because ‘no cop is going to put anything in his memo book to incriminate himself.’ But the new system, Mr. Serpico said, could prevent old abuses, like officers leaving open space in their books to allow them to add entries retroactively. ‘Guys used to leave blank pages so they could go back and add observations just to get a judge to give them a search warrant on someone,’ he recalled in a phone interview.”

See also: NYC Mayor de Blasio, Deputy IT Commissioner blamed for saddling NYPD with 36,000 worthless Windows Phones that now need to be replaced with Apple iPhones – August 28, 2017


  1. And what is the NYPD position on Apple building back doors for access to all their databases via those iPhones? The federal Justice Department thinks that is a great idea.

  2. I believe that this will work pretty well. It will have been well designed over a reasonable time period, developed by competent programmers and fully tested before gong into the field.

    After it goes operational maybe the NYPD can generate some revenues by working with the Lame & Lazy – and develop a solid system for the Iowa Democrats.

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