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Stop and Frisk Watch: Keep Tabs on the NYPD with Your Smart Phone

Michael Cummings,
New York Civil Liberties Union
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June 6, 2012

The New York Civil Liberties Union is giving smart phones a social conscience. This week, we unveiled Stop and Frisk Watch – a new smart phone app that will empower New Yorkers to hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful, abusive street stops and other misconduct.

Stop and Frisk Watch – available in English and Spanish for Android phones – allows bystanders to document stop-and-frisk encounters and alert community members when a street stop is in progress. Easy to use, it has three main functions:

· Record: Users can film a police encounter with audio by pushing a trigger on the phone’s frame. When filming stops, the user immediately receives a brief survey allowing them to provide details about the incident. The video and survey is sent to the NYCLU.

· Listen: This function alerts users when someone in their vicinity is being stopped by the police. When other app users in the area trigger the app, the user receives a message reporting where the police stop is happening. It’s especially useful for community groups that monitor police activity.

· Report: This prompts the survey, allowing users to report a police interaction they saw or experienced, even if they didn’t film it.

The app includes a “Know Your Rights” section that instructs people about their rights when confronted by police and their right to film police activity in public.

The NYPD’s own data shows that each year police stop and frisk hundreds of thousands of innocent Black and Latino New Yorkers. Last year, NYPD officers stopped and interrogated people 685,724 times, a more than 600 percent increase in street stops since Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office. Nine out of 10 of people stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor ticketed. About 87 percent were Black or Latino.

An NYCLU analysis showed that Black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011, though they make up only 4.7 percent of the city’s population. The number of stops of young Black men exceeded the city’s entire population of young Black men. (The NYCLU’s full analysis of the NYPD’s 2011 stop-and-frisk data is available on our website.)

The videos and surveys we collect through Stop and Frisk Watch will go beyond the data to illustrate how this humiliating and abusive tactic corrodes trust between police and communities. This will help us fight for change.

An iPhone version is coming this summer. For more information on Stop and Frisk Watch and to download it to your phone, visit

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