Right now, the NYCLU is hosting a press conference at 1 Police Plaza to announce the launch of its innovative app, available for download from all Android markets today. The app is aimed at helping eradicate stop-and-frisks by culling and sharing as much information as possible. There’s an iPhone version set to be released come autumn, but the Android-only move isn’t completely random. Jennifer Carnig, Communications Director of the NYCLU, pointed out that “the impacted communities don’t use iPhones so much.” ANIMAL got a sneak peek of the app, and spoiler alert: it is really cool, we live in the future, et cetera.
The app is designed to allow people record stop-and-frisks throughout New York City, but it’s does more than merely open up your Android’s camera function. After you have the app up, you hit “record”—or, if you’re in a situation where you’re uncomfortable having a camera visible, the “listen” option turns your phone into an audio recorder you can keep in your pocket and out of sight. An especially clever feature is the option to lock your phone when you stop recording. This way, should a cop who is displeased at being filmed want to take the phone from you, he or she will not be able to delete the recording of the stop-and-frisk. (Also: to stop recording, you shake your camera. It may seem like a minor feature, but a speedy one-handed way to both stop recording and lock your phone could really come in handy during a tense altercation with a police officer.)
Here’s where the app is really ingenious. After you’ve recorded whatever stop-and-frisk of whatever young black man (just trying to be honest, here), you’re directed to a four-page survey, the “Incident Report,” to compile as many details about the interaction as possible. What borough are you in? What intersection? Who was stopped? What age, gender, race? Did the officers involved identify themselves? Use force? Yell, curse, or insult the person stopped or you? Make “inappropriate sexual comments or contact”? Draw a weapon? What are their names? Their badge numbers? A lot of this information is required, but there’s also a final page wherein you can describe the event to the best of your abilities, as exhaustively as you choose. Then, you send the whole experience, audio/video recording and survey, to the NYCLU, who are pretty well equipped to analyze this data.
But wait! There’s more! While we were exploring the app, a push notification appeared at the top of my phone, alerting me to the fact that someone had reported a stop-and-frisk “in the area.” The app is not geo-tagged unless you want it to be, so I’m guessing “the area” is New York—this feature is probably disable-able given the hundreds of thousands of incidents that happen yearly.
The feature I found the most interesting and exciting is the “Your Rights” icon at the bottom of the app’s home page. I think the brief rundown of what you, as a victim or witness of a stop-and-frisk, are legally allowed to do or say, could be really empowering for anyone anxious about whipping out a cell phone in front of a cop while that cop is being particularly scary. Yes: you have the right to film the police (provided you don’t interfere). Yes: you should collect names and information, and it is helpful to do so. This turns an incident of victimization into an opportunity—not only to help the NYCLU combat unethical stop-and-frisks, but to learn what you’re capable of as a citizen. (Photo: yojimbot/flickr)