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Typewriters live on in New York police department

  • Story Highlights
  • Typewriters mainly used for filling out property voucher, says NYPD official
  • Public records show city signed $432,900 contract for typewriter maintenance
  • "It's so antiquated," said one officer
By Jason Kessler
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- In 2009, some units of the New York Police Department still function more like "Dragnet" than "CSI." They rely on typewriters.

Records show New York City signed a $432,900 contract for typewriter maintenance with in 2008.

Records show New York City signed a $432,900 contract for typewriter maintenance with in 2008.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne confirmed the department's continued, if limited, use of the 20th-century writing devices, explaining that they're mainly used for filling out property vouchers -- forms that officers must file when they seize items during case investigations. The typewriters also are retained in case a technological meltdown disables the NYPD's computers, he said.

The vintage typing machines do not come cheap.

Public records show that the city signed a $432,900 contract for typewriter maintenance with Afax Business Machines in 2008, as well as a $99,570 contract with that company in 2009. Typewriter company Swintec received a $982,269 contract from the city in 2007.

Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York police officer who now lectures at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the typewriters are an anachronism -- and a waste.

"The two places you'd find typewriters are the museum and the police department," O'Donnell said. Typewriters create significant efficiency and storage problems for the department, he added, causing extra labor and unwieldy paper trails.

Deputy Commissioner Browne emphasized that "we have a $4 billion budget" and the financial resources devoted to typewriters are relatively miniscule.

Officers interviewed by CNN on the street had no soft spots for the contraptions.

"It's so antiquated," said one officer who did not want to be identified.

Her partner shared her frustration. "It's very inconvenient -- you have to find ink, you have to find this, find that."

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