When a Queens, N.Y., woman reported her car stolen this year, responding officers arrived located the vehicle at a local tow lot within minutes. Not by talking to eyewitnesses, or using their police radio to broadcast an all points bulletin – but by using their personal cell phones, says the New York Sun. New York City police officers increasingly use cell phones to conduct police business, often at the behest of their immediate supervisors. But a police department rule that prohibits most officers from using personal cell phones in favor of police radios or pay phones while on duty means police officers often foot the cost of those calls themselves.
“My sergeant might say call the precinct. Well, how am I going to call the precinct if I don’t have a cell phone?” said a patrol officer. Said another officer: “You’re not supposed to have it, but how practical is it not to have it?” Prof. Joseph King of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said the use of mobile technology is normal practice in some law enforcement offices, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For uniformed officers in New York, cell phones offer direct access to other officers by way of avoiding the busy radio airwaves. For certain bureaus, such as transit, Dr. King said, cell phones can be more reliable than radio signals. What’s more, police radio frequency can be intercepted, he said.