In early February, the New York Civil Liberties Union followed released their controversial Stop and Frisk Watch app for the iPhone users to record New York City police officers’ activity in the public view in video or written form. The app automatically forwards the video and data to the NYCLU to have their attorneys scour for any police wrongdoing. This follows the release of the original Android version eight months prior.
At the heart of the issue is the long, contentious battle between the NYCLU and the NYPD over the “Terry Stop.” Commonly referred to as Stop, Question and Frisk by law enforcement, Cornell University Law School defines it as:
“a brief, non-intrusive, police stop of a suspect. The Fourth Amendment requires that the police have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed before stopping a suspect. If the police reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, they may conduct a frisk, a quick pat-down of the person’s outer clothing. See Terry v Ohio, 392 US 1, (1967).”
The NYCLU claims that minorities are disproportionately subjected to these street interviews and that 56 percent of the time involve a frisk based on the NYPD’s own 2011 data that is part of the information the NYCLU sued for access to and won. NYPD argue utilizing the same data shows that for the proportions of individuals of each race subject to a reasonable suspicion stop is approximate to the racial breakdown of all known crime suspects.
The NYCLU says that despite the legal back and forth between them and NYPD, it is the citizens of New York City they are listening to more.
“It’s been so powerful and gratifying to hear that cop watch groups are using the app and to hear from young people from the Bronx to Bed-Stuy talk about the sense of power they feel having the app on their phones,: says Jennifer Carnig, NYCLU’s Director of Communications, in an email interview. “We really hope the iPhone version will allow even more people to hold the NYPD accountable. The potential is exciting.”