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June 6, 2012 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today unveiled “Stop and Frisk Watch” – a free and innovative smart phone application that will empower New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other police misconduct.
“Stop and Frisk Watch is about empowering individuals and community groups to confront abusive, discriminatory policing,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “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 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.”
Stop and Frisk Watch is available in English and Spanish, thanks to a translation by Make the Road New York. Initially available for Android phones, an iPhone version will be released later this summer. The app allows bystanders to fully document stop-and-frisk encounters and alert community members when a street stop is in progress. It has three primary functions:
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. 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.
“I am encouraged by the technology that the NYCLU has created to protect the young people who are being targeted by the NYPD,” said hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. “I hope that all of the recent events will create enough awareness that the general public will force the city to end the abuse of stop-and-frisk in its entirety.”
The NYCLU developed Stop and Frisk Watch with Jason Van Anden, a Brooklyn-based visual artist and software developer who previously developed the Occupy Wall Street app, “I’m Getting Arrested.”
“I am fortunate to live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City,” said Van Anden, a resident of Flatbush. “I have witnessed the negative impact stop-and -frisk has had on some of my neighbors. Racial profiling creates distrust between the community and the police. We need more trust, not less. I hope that this app will help to discourage, and ultimately end, this unfair and abusive policy.”
Last year, the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 685,724 times, a more than 600 percent increase in street stops since Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office when there were only 97,296 stops. Nine out of 10 of people stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor ticketed. About 87 percent were black or Latino.
An NYCLU analysis showed that black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011, though they make up only 4.7 percent of the city’s population. The number of stops of young black men exceeded the city’s entire population of young black men.
The NYCLU is working with 1199 SEIU, the NAACP, the National Action Network and dozens of other labor, civil rights and community organizations to organize a silent march against stop-and-frisk abuse on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are expected to march against NYPD abuse.
“New York City’s stop-and-frisk program is wholesale racial profiling,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The NYCLU’s app is a key tool to further expose and fight this egregious policy that sews racial division, distracts law enforcement, and needlessly humiliates hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and their families every year.”
“National Action Network and I salute the New York Civil Liberties Union and all of the groups present for being strong allies in the fight against stop and frisk procedures in New York City,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and MSNBC host. “We thank Donna Lieberman and the NYCLU for implementing Stop and Frisk Watch to both alert and allow community members to witness when a stop is in progress.”