Speaking to 100 supporters and guests of the Police Foundation at its annual fund-raising breakfast at the Regency Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Kelly said that a key to the department’s success has been technological innovation—much of it financed by donations from the 40-year-old private organization. The commissioner highlighted two new and promising programs: “vapor wake” dogs, Labrador retrievers trained to detect airborne particles trailing behind someone who has been around explosives; and a new body scanner, still in development, that can detect a concealed weapon on people without frisking them. Not unlike body scanners at some major airports, the NYPD’s gun scanner is the result of a collaboration launched three years ago with the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office. But so far, Commissioner Kelly added, the device works only at short range—up to three or four feet away. His goal is accuracy at a minimum distance of some 75 feet. Eventually, the department hopes to mount the fairly large devices, now about the size of a large flat-screen TV, on NYPD vans to scan an entire area.
A good image brings donations
The New York City Police Foundation, established in 1971 to provide police vests and other innovations that even this well-funded police department cannot always afford, has invested over $100 million in such programs since its creation, said Valerie Salembier, the foundation chairwoman and publisher of Town and Country who is close to Commissioner Kelly and his wife, Veronica. The foundation’s donors, in general, constitute a veritable Who’s Who of New York’s entrepreneurs and philanthropists, making it a “destination” charity for the socially mobile. But it has institutional backers, too: in 2010, JPMorgan Chase donated $4.75 million in cash, technology, and other resources to the foundation, the largest gift in the foundation’s history.
In their remarks Tuesday, both Kelly and Salembier stressed the vital role such contributions play for the NYPD, which allocates 92 percent of its $4.6 billion annual budget to salaries and benefits. The NYPD, with its 35,000 uniformed officers and total of 50,000 employees, depends on private and corporate giving to sustain the technological edge that has helped it reduce crime to record-low levels—down some 34 percent since 2001 in a city that has grown by 1 million people since 1990. There were 504 murders last year in the city (down 6 percent from 2010’s total of 534), meaning that only six New Yorkers were killed per 100,000 people. Compare that with New Orleans, where 61 out of 100,000 were killed, or 15 per 100,000 in Chicago, or 24 per 100,000 in Philadelphia.
The importance of technology
Foundation funds have also helped the department detect and disrupt 14 separate terrorism plots targeting New York since 9/11, two of these in 2011, Kelly said. For several years, the foundation has helped finance most of the NYPD’s $1.5-million-a-year International Liaison Program, in which 11 NYPD detectives are embedded in police departments overseas to explore potential New York ramifications of terrorist activity abroad. The foundation provided $300,000 in seed money for the department’s Real Time Crime Center, whose database now contains 800,000 mug shots and whose vehicle data helped the city recover over 1,200 stolen cars last year alone. The foundation has helped finance the city’s network of 2,000 (eventually 3,000) sophisticated security cameras, which feed information into a central monitoring system to detect suspicious or unlawful activity. Eventually, data collected from the department’s chemical, biological, and radiation detectors will also be fed into the system. A new police academy now under construction, also partly financed by the foundation, will be the nation’s most high-tech police-training facility, Kelly says.
Foundations and the police
But as federal and state funds for law enforcement shrink, the need for private foundation support seems likely only to grow. Police foundations modeled on New York’s have already been created in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, and other cities are considering them as well. And donations in New York are strong and growing, foundation spokesmen say.
What can the police in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Central America learn from the NYPD?
- Technology is key.
- Public funding is not sufficient.
- Foundations are critical to increase funding.
- Much more transparency is necessary to gain credibility.