Following a significant resurgence in opposition to the NYPD's controversial "Stop-and-Frisk" practices, the New York Civil Liberties Union has released Stop & Frisk Watch, a free app which streamlines the process of documenting police misconduct. Like OpenWatch, another citizen surveillance tool released during the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests last year, the app allows for rapid reporting of police encounters. But it also includes a number of other useful features that aid in documenting stop-and-frisk incidents.
Usually "frictionless sharing" is a dirty word, but Stop & Frisk Watch is designed to be as fast and simple to use as possible. The app automatically sends geotagged video recordings to the NYCLU, with text fields after each transmission allowing you to provide more details of the incident like names and badge numbers. "Listen" mode sends you alerts when other stop-and-frisk incidents have been reported nearby.
There's also a "shake to stop recording" feature and some other helpful options, like one that automatically password-locks your phone after a recording is made — useful since the courts have ruled in the past that a police officer may have the right to search your phone in the event of an arrest. Unlike OpenWatch, the app can't make covert recordings. Though that shouldn't be an issue being as how you most definitely have a right to record on-duty police officers, especially if they're engaging in these abusive practices.
NYPD data shows a more than 600% increase in stop-and-frisks between 2002 and 2011
For years, the "Stop-and-Frisk" program has allowed NYPD officers to detain and search citizens on the street under vague and often baseless suspicions of wrongdoing. Intended as a deterrent against gun violence, the practice has spiraled out of control in recent years: NYPD data shows a more than 600% increase in the tactic's usage between 2002 and 2011, despite that the number of shooting victims during that same timeframe has more or less flatlined. Civil rights advocates have called it a form of city-sanctioned racial profiling with recorded cases overwhelmingly targeting young blacks and latinos, and roughly 90 percent of the 685,724 recorded incidents last year ending without any ticketing or arrests. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have nonetheless continued to voice support for the program, calling it "an essential part of the NYPD's work."
The NYCLU is holding a press conference today outside 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan to announce the app, which they hope "will empower New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold NYPD officers accountable for unlawful and abusive stop-and-frisk encounters." The app is currently available for Android, with an iPhone version coming later this summer.