Over the last couple of years, stop-and-frisk has become an increasing concern for black and brown New Yorkers. Most recently the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the New York Police Department if she rules the department’s stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin presided at a 10-week civil trial over the New York police practice of stopping people suspected of unlawful activity and frisking those suspected of carrying weapons. Critics of the policy say it targets minorities and violates their Fourth Amendment rights for protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In response to the stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) recently decided to take new media action against the practice with the new stop-and-frisk app. The app is currently available for Android and Apple devices and allows bystanders to fully document stop-and-frisk encounters and alert community members when a street stop is in progress.
- RECORD: This allows the user to film an incident with audio by simply pushing a trigger on the phone’s frame. Shaking the phone stops the filming. When filming stops, the user immediately receives a brief survey allowing them to provide details about the incident. The video and survey will go to the NYCLU, which will use the information to shed light on the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices and hold the Department accountable for its actions.
- LISTEN: This function alerts the user when people in their vicinity are being stopped by the police. When other app users in the area trigger Stop and Frisk Watch, the user receives a message reporting where the police stop is happening. This feature is especially useful for community groups who monitor police activity.
- REPORT: This prompts the survey, allowing users to report a police interaction they saw or experienced, even if they didn’t film it.
The app includes a “Know Your Rights” section that instructs people about their rights when confronted by police and their right to film police activity in public. The NYCLU also wants to point out that the app is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop.