Stop-and-Frisk App Users on the Rise

The Android tool for recording police wrongdoing has taken off since its release last week.

Getty Images
Getty Images

(The Root) — Ever witnessed what appeared to be police harassment and wished that you could do something about it? Now you can. On June 6 the New York Civil Liberties Union rolled out its Stop and Frisk Watch smartphone app, a tool that lets bystanders record and report unlawful police encounters.

Since its debut, more than 75,000 people have downloaded it, and thousands of videos have been submitted. “Our staff is monitoring the videos as they come in,” NYCLU spokeswoman Jennifer Carnig told The Root. The clips will then become an active part of the organization’s campaign to end stop and frisk — the policy in which New York City police can interrogate and search residents without cause. The images will be included in the group’s public-education, communications and lobbying efforts and may also be used to litigate cases against officers.

“The NYPD tells New Yorkers that if they see something, say something, and the NYCLU agrees,” explains Carnig, whose group is co-organizing a silent march on Sunday to protest stop and frisk. “If people see police misconduct or an inappropriate stop and frisk, we want them to have the tools to say something about it.”

The app has three primary functions: “Record” allows users to film incidents with audio and can be stopped by simply shaking the phone. Once filming stops, a brief survey prompts users to report specifics like officer badge numbers and if abusive force or language was used during the encounter. The video and survey then get uploaded directly to NYCLU servers.

“Listen,” a particularly useful feature for community groups that monitor police activity, informs users about other incidents occurring in their vicinity that are being recorded by fellow app users. “Report” prompts the survey so that users can submit unrecorded episodes they saw or experienced.

There’s even a “Know Your Rights” section that informs people about their rights when confronted by police and their right to film police activity in public. The app, available in English and Spanish, is currently available for Android phones. By July, iPhones users will also be able to download the app.