The NYCLU’s fight against the constitution challenging Stop-and-Frisk policy went mobile today. The organization wants you to police the police. The “Stop-and-Frisk Watch” app is designed for bystanders to easily shoot and upload videos of the NYPD’s interaction with civilians.
“The police are very fond of saying, ‘If you’re not doing anything wrong then what’s the problem?’ Well, we say that back at them,” Ms. Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU told The Observer today after a press conference outside police Headquarters.
The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg stand firm in their belief that their random searches are effective, boasting of the record-low murder rate. (The figures compared the murder rate of the last ten years with the ten years prior.)
Ms. Lieberman calls the figures “bologna,” and finds the numbers lack any direct correlation to the stop-and-frisk since most of the arrests that resulted from a search, just one tenth of those stopped charged with even a misdemeanor. She feels that if the practices are saving New Yorkers, then officers should have no problem being filmed.
“Let’s put a spotlight on it then. Let’s show what a great job the NYPD is doing,” she quipped.
The app, which at the time is only for Android phones, allows users to report searches by video or by answering a series of questions (location, age, gender, race of the person stopped) about the incident even if you didn’t film it. The data is sent directly to the NYCLU where it is compiled in hopes to further investigate the nature, integrity and productivity of these stops.
“Although not scientific, it will help put a face to the people who are hurt by these practices and provide safety to this who feel powerless,” stated Ms. Lieberman.
Candis Tolliver, an organizer for the Advocacy Department of the NYCLU, was teaching people in the crowd how to use the application and why it is important for people to download and record.
“We could pass legislation. We could sue. We could litigate. We could win, but if communities aren’t empowered to create change nothing is ever going to happen when it comes to the power and balance between police and communities,” Ms. Tolliver told The Observer. “People always say, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it,’ but this app allows documentation so it’s not just the cops word against yours.”
Although it is within constitutional rights to film a police officer, it was hardly discussed whether citizens would have the courageous fervor to blatantly film a gun wielding, badge wearing lawman.
In an effort to answer that question, we stopped an on-duty police officer nearby to see what he thought about people filming him do his job.
“It wouldn’t really bother me—as long as I can still do my job,” he said shrugging.
“What’s going on here? We don’t have time for this,” the policeman’s superior shouted at him as traffic lined up on Park Row.