2:15 pm Jun. 6, 2012
A "Stop and Frisk Watch" app released by the New York Civil Liberties Union is meant to let people "passively" observe the NYPD, said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman.
The app, designed by Flatbush-based tech entrepreneur Jason Van Anden, "will allow people to go beyond the data and document and how each unjustified stop further corrodes the essential trust between communities and law enforcement that we rely on to keep us safe," Lieberman said.
The app is supposed to allow users to record footage and then, by shaking the phone, immediately send it to the NYCLU. Users will be automatically notified if another app user in their vicinity indicates a police activity is taking place.
I asked Lieberman whether she was concerned that watching footage collected by the app might not present an accurate picture of what's going on, since the footage would often be of police reacting to incidents that the app users didn't capture.
"We know this isn't going to provide all the answers," she said. "It's going to provide a multiple-snapshot of something that happened. We have to look at the footage we get and evaluate each on its facts and circumstances."
Asked whether each video received by the NYCLU would be made public, Leiberman said no.
"That would just clutter up the airwaves and that's not what we're asking people to do," she said.
The app's debut comes days before a Father's Day march down Fifth Avenue, organized by groups seeking to reduce the number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD.
"The first step to ending human-rights abuses is documentation," said Ben Jealous, the national president of the N.A.A.C.P., who attended the app's unveiling. "The next step is to stand up and speak out."
Referring to stop-and-frisk, Jealous said Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "repeated suggestion that this makes us safer is a lie."