NYPD is spending $1 million in typewriters

New York City is spending a million bucks on typewriters over the next three years. Apparently the NYPD is working toward computerizing everything, but they're just not there yet. So Swintec office equipment is on contract to provide manual and electrics, and maintenance, for the foreseeable future. From UPI:
Most of the city's arrest forms have been computerized, but property and evidence vouchers printed on carbon-paper forms still require the use of typewriters.

"It just doesn't make sense that we can't enter these (vouchers) on computer," a police officer told the newspaper.

Dr. Edith Linn, a retired New York police officer and professor of criminal justice at the city's Berkeley College, said many of the 500 police officers she interviewed for a study told her the outdated equipment makes them less likely to perform arrests for minor offenses.
"NYPD typewriter bill nearly $1 million" (via Orange Crate Art)


  1. Did they upgrade to mimeographs yet or are they still keeping a pool of scriveners on the payroll?

  2. Dr. Edith Linn, a retired New York police officer and professor of criminal justice at the city’s Berkeley College, said many of the 500 police officers she interviewed for a study told her the outdated equipment makes them less likely to perform arrests for minor offenses.

    Very likely these “minor offenses” include riding one’s bicycle on the sidewalk in poorer neighborhoods, peeing in public, open containers, etc. Money well spent, I’d say. Can we up the typewriter budget to $5 million or so?

  3. To protect and to server. As long as there’s not much paperwork.

    Gotta love that kind of work ethic and dedication.

    Better that a guilty man goes free than to gather too much evidence for filing with outdated typewriter.

  4. I don’t know what type of machines it is they are referring to, but all they have to do is arrange a template in typeface on their press, one time. Then they could quickly change the lettering for names and crimes, descriptions, etc. You can run off several paper records that way, per hour. Have you not heard of Gutenberg, New York? Get with the times!

  5. “…the outdated equipment makes them less likely to perform arrests for minor offenses.”

    That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

  6. For FY 2009, NYPD is budgeted approximately $3.9 billion for operating expenditures. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/erc6_09.pdf , p. 70E). $1 million is approximately 0.025% of total expenditures, i.e., no big whoop. It would be an smaller still if capital costs were considered.

    Another way of looking at this is its cost per citizen, which is approximately 12 cents per city resident ($1 million spread across 8.36 million city residents). I readily admit this isn’t the most proper way to assess the impact on residents, as the tax base isn’t people, but primarily economic transactions, incomes, and property taxes. However, it’s a quick method I’ve long used to assess the relative impact of a spending proposal.

    And finally, as a bureaucrat with a small state government agency (approximately 30 employees), there have been several instances when state auditor requirements have us filling out carbon sheets with manual and electronic typewriters. From what I understand, it’s rather expensive to create and implement new reporting forms across institutions.

  7. Manual gear doesn’t sound so absurd after some bozo cuts a fiber cable and takes out all the land lines, all the cell phones, all the ATMs, and effectively closes all banks, and most businesses because they have no manual way to do anything.

    It was a bit shocking to learn that no only do the phone companies have zero redundancy in their networks, but the banks and businesses have no contingency mechanisms in place for a network outage.

    So… after the NYPD manage to upgrade, let’s hope they’re still able to function even when they experience a network or power outage.

  8. Why is doing forms on computer so hard for them? Make it once, use it forever. Are there other big agencies still using carbons?

    Enact a new wave of Broken Windows, and clear this up!

  9. You know, typewriter use wasn’t that long ago. And a paper-shuffling system isn’t necessarily bad unless it doesn’t work. It’s good to see them implementing new systems, and I hope those systems are more efficient and effective than older systems, but I’m not willing to look down on them for not changing yet.

    I simply don’t know how the system works or how effective it is. I generally think faster technology=better performance, but, you know, if you still need typewriters, you still need them.

  10. My point was lost. Sorry. I hope the new system allows them to do their job more effectively. But it’s not necessarily so.

  11. “…told her the outdated equipment makes them less likely to perform arrests for minor offenses. ”

    Good, they should replace the radios with telegraphs too.

  12. One mil over three years? Not bad at all considering service agreements I’ve heard of in my industry….
    How hard can it be to implement? If there’s a written procedure you link the form and add the info to the procedure and have everyone sign off. Kee-rist, we do that darn near every week.

  13. firstbakingbook,10
    My thoughts too.

    The typewriters should be manual too! Think about it. One big EMP and the entire NYPD will be out of business!

  14. There may be an advantage to having the folks in the evidence room using the paper system – from what I learned on The Wire, the officers working there have a bit of time on their hands.

  15. Ah, the cesspool of backroom no bid contracts awarded to cronies and/or the highest bribe.

    Thats what 150 years of facism in North America will net you.

    The dirty secret of government in the US, is that so called ‘capital improvements’ continue to grow as a percentage of the overall budget, while the operating bugets to provide basic services continues to be cut to the bone. It’s ten times easyer to funnel cash to cronies with ‘capital improvement’ projects, than it is with operating basic services.

  16. I’m sure it’s already been said, but the cost of a typewriter these days has to be about as much as desktop computer. And I can’t imagine they wouldn’t get a bulk discount–let alone at a nonprofit rate.

    Just dumb all around.

  17. good grief, if typewriters are all that’s stopping them from making minor offense arrests, why not have a trained civilian contingent to process this kind of paper work?

    Officer makes the arrest, fills out their record book and those go to the processors. Computerized or not, a few skilled people at the desk doing these all day would probably streamline the process enormously, leaving all kinds of extra time for the officers to get out there and sass everyone.

  18. Also in favor of keeping the arrest bar high. Most of the time, you want the cops on the street deterring and such.

    I’m all for the police giving people a stern shouting at when that will effectively solve the problem with no paperwork and no record.

  19. The NY Post article misrepresented many facts in service of a sexy headline, including the type of technology purchased, the cost, the length of the contract, any obligation to purchase by the NYPD, and other details. I found this out by simply e-mailing Swintec, and I am no journalist. The complete details from Swintec are on my website at http://www.strikethru.net/2009/07/swintec-typewriters-and-nypd.html.

    This article is not worth quoting– it’s bad reporting.

  20. I work DV and sexual assault cases in 8 NYC hospitals. One day I was sitting there with a NYPD officer. He was bemoaning how long his day was gonna be. He had hand written his report. Then he had to take it to the precinct and type it up. I asked why they did not give him a laptop so he could be done with it and on to his next case… He said, “Oh no. This is done is a typewriter. In 4-part carbonless.” His theory was that the city had invested in so much 4-part carbonless paper that they were gonna keep using typewriters until it was all gone. Crazy.

  21. Enormo@13: It’s an ingenious device in which a computer keyboard is attached directly to a small printer, completely eliminating the need for all that clunky processing equipment in the middle. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this sooner.

  22. Anyone else read ‘Swintec’ and think it was ‘Swinetech’?

    I had a little LOL moment there.

  23. They could have asked for donations of typewriters, or offered $10 each. Heck, I think I’ve got an IBM Selectric buried around here somewhere.
    For that matter, they could have asked for old computers- even an old 286 is fast enough for what they’re doing! And I’ve got about five out in the garage.

  24. after reading about the New York Rubber Room for teachers, this just fits my mental image of what New York City is really about. Did they ever succeed in banning Geiger counters?

  25. This reminds me of talking to my doctor recently – I was surprised that he didn’t have my records, though it had been a while since I was last there. Turns out he used to keep computer records, as he was in a beta test for software for medical records. The beta period ended and the annual license was $80,000, so he told me he switched back to paper to effectively save money.

    In that light, this story seems a little more sensible.

  26. Um…what’s the problem here? There are indeed times when a document should be in a physical, not-easy-to-modify/forge/broadcast form. Birth, death and marriage certificates are usually still done with typewriters, for exactly that reason. And when there’s a chain of evidence involved, a similar logic applies.

    This piece strikes a strange tone. Since when was it a given that every aspect of life was supposed to depend on electricity and an operating system? Gee, how much does the NYPD spend on pens, pencils, tape recorders and other modes of documentation that can conceivably be done on computers? There’s technology, and there’s the appropriate use thereof.

  27. I agree with #10. There are benefits in having a really resilient backup.
    I am a city councillor and we were recently briefed on our city’s emergency plan. One aspect that caused a wry smile was that the police here had had to replace all the megaphones/loudhailers they got rid of years ago on the assumption that TV and radio would do all the necessary announcing of what to do in an emergency. Someone with a bit more sense had realised that if the emergency includes loss of electricity then it could easily be that no broadcasting or receiving could be one of the outcomes. They might easily be back to driving the street shouting at the citizens through loudhailers to get folks to evacuate an area or whatever.

    Small stocks of no-electricity equipment are sensible.

    This house has no TVs, 3 laptops, 2 PCs and several active typewriters dating from 1920-1960s, mainly used by my teenagers.

  28. The vast majority of these typewriters went to inmates who are denied computer access, I read in a newspaper in Australia.

  29. TTTT I think that spending money on ‘typewriters’ in the digital age should be banned in the U.S. Buy some computers’ with that million bucks and hire some good consultants to just come and train the organization on using them. Going backwards does more harm that it does help.

  30. Agree that we shouldn’t let governments buy more typewriters, but TTTT many govt organizations are so far behind, this can’t possibly hurt more than it already does. A friend of mine ended up taking a USB drive full of evidence to a police station, and the detectives had computers without USB ports! #FAIL

Comments are closed.