More than 2,000 Baltimore police officers soon will begin carrying sophisticated smart phones allowing them to check warrants, retrieve driver’s license photos and conduct background checks on hand-held devices, reports the city’s Sun. The initiative is designed to get police out of patrol cars and walking the beat. The new phones will be purchased with $3.5 million in federal stimulus money. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III called it the most extensive program of its kind in the country.
In the next few months, nearly all of the department’s patrol officers will receive BlackBerrys equipped with an application called PocketCop, which allows for rapid access to critical databases. The phones’ built-in GPS function will also let the department track movements and deployment patterns of police, a feature that is making some officers wary. Bealefeld said that the previous generation of technological advances “made the vehicle a mobile office, except now [officers] don’t leave the office.” The smart phones “will help break that tether,” he said.