New York City police stopped and questioned people 685,724 times in 2011, a more than 600 percent increase in street stops since 2002 — according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Now — there’s an app for that.
The group released a free smartphone application that allows people to record videos of and report police “stop and frisk” activity, a practice widely denounced by civil rights groups as unjustified stops that they say mostly target minorities and almost never results in an arrest.
The appl was thoroughly criticized by the New York Police Department, which said that the tool might prove useful for criminals.
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. Stop and Frisk Watch is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. Now available on Android phones, an iPhone version will launch later in the summer. It comes in English and Spanish.
“Stop and Frisk Watch is about empowering individuals and community groups to confront abusive, discriminatory policing,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “The NYPD’s own data shows that the overwhelming majority of people subjected to stop-and-frisk are black or Latino, and innocent of any wrongdoing. At a time when the [Mayor Mike] Bloomberg administration vigorously defends the status quo, our app will allow people to go beyond the data to document how each unjustified stop further corrodes trust between communities and law enforcement.”
The recording and report will be sent to the civil liberties group, which will collect the information. One of the app’s three main functions is called “listen,” in which users can learn when and where people around them are being stopped. This would be useful for community groups monitoring police activity, the NYCLU said in a statement.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne denounced the app, saying criminals would find it “useful” because it would alert them to where police stops were happening.