The New York City Police Department (NYPD) instituted the policy of Stop-and-Frisk, which allows officers to stop, question, and search people based on reasonable suspicion. The police department has become controversial as many complain the stop-and-frisks are another form of racial profiling. According to the NYPD’s own statistics, more than 80% of those who have been stopped have been completely innocent and the majority of these people were African-American or Latino.
Because the practice seems to disproportionately target young Black men, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has created a smart phone app called the Stop-And-Frisk Watch app. Victims and bystanders can now record police misconduct.
“We realized the power of video. Video brings truth to the lie. This app allows people to see what a stop-and-frisk really looks like and can help report police misconduct,” says Jennifer Carnig, NYCLU communications director. “We are not saying stop-and-frisk can not be a valuable tool to help prevent crime, but when it is being used to racially target New Yorkers, it is actually undermining the relationship the police have with the public.”
The NYCLU phone app is free and available only to New Yorkers. The app allows users to monitor police activity, making it possible to report police misconduct. According to Carnig, more than 80,000 people have downloaded the app.
The app, says Carnig, was inspired by another similar app. “The idea was inspired by an app by Occupy Wall Street called I’m Getting Arrested,” she says. “So we contacted the developer of that app and he helped create the stop-and-frisk app for us.” The app developer is Jason Van Anden, a Brooklyn-based visual artist and software developer.
The Stop-and-Frisk Watch app, which is offered in English and Spanish, is available for Android phones. An iPhone version will also be released in August. The app has three main functions: to film incidents of stop-and-frisks, to alert others with the app when a stop-and-frisk occurs, and to report abuse. “We have already received thousands of videos, which will be used in our survey about the stop-and-frisk policy,” explains Carnig. “So far, we have not had any reports of police trying to stop anyone from filming a stop-and-frisk. It is every citizen to film interactions with the police.”
The app also includes a “Know Your Rights” section, which informs users about their rights when confronted by police.