Unequal Protection Under the Law

Please be aware this video uses strong language. Due to the nature of the topic, we felt it was appropriate to include this taped encounter in the post.

This past summer, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released a smart-phone app to record stop-and-frisk activities by police. The NYCLU has said that the Stop-and-Frisk Watch App “will empower New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other police misconduct.” Similarly, the ACLU-NJ released Police Tape, an app that can be used to record police interactions in a secure fashion. Both apps allow people to activate a recording device that can record police activity discreetly. Once recording has been completed, the data can be instantly submitted to the ACLU or NYCLU. They can store it in case your phone is destroyed or confiscated and evaluate it to see if any rights have been violated. The apps also offer legal information to help users better understand their own rights. These programs work to encourage police accountability by making their interactions with citizens easy to report and accessible to the public.

These apps can be of use to Black and Latino communities, which are disproportionately affected by New York City’s stop-and-frisk procedures. Data from the last ten years, as reported by the NYPD, shows the majority of stop-and-frisk victims are Black or Latino. In the last year alone, 310,390 innocent people identified as Black were stopped by the police as part of stop-and-frisk. Of course, numbers, percentages and graphs cannot convey or measure the humiliation, degradation, or trauma inflicted through stop-and-frisk.

The data collected shows how ineffective and racially biased stop-and-frisk is. As a community, we must continue to call attention to this racially unjust policy and the use of these apps gives us the chance to lend our voice to the matter. Each data upload to Stop-and-Frisk Watch and Police Tape add more power and weight to the argument that this policy is illegal and harmful to youth of color. Here are some other ways to get involved:

by Steffany Ballas, Jessica Nesbihal, Julia Bates and Rebecca McCarthy

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9 Comments

  1. Dear Progressive Pupil,
    This blog post is incredibly important to highlight the injustices that the NYPD has been causing to the Black and Latino populations of NYC. Although I live in the city, I am not affected by these stop-and-frisk laws because I am white and live in a neighborhood that is not regularly patrolled by cops. I think it is important that people like me, who are not being abused, become aware of what is happening and not dismiss these human rights violations for apathy. Marginalized people in the city, who already are affected by other injustices, do not deserve to be humiliated and taken advantaged of by the NYPD’s policies. I think everyone in the city needs to see this video and we need to advocate for the people that all too often do not have a voice against police brutality. Thank you for providing us ways to get involved. I will and have shared this post with many people to increase awareness around this issue!
    -Emilie R.

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  2. Tori L.

     /  October 15, 2012

    This was a fantastic piece to watch. It is a sobering reminder of the experiences that males of color go through on a daily basis. It is quite important that we continue to educate people, especially males of color, about their rights, and what to do if they find themselves being harassed and/or abused by the police in these situations. I unfortunately am of the mindset right now that Stop and Frisk will not be ended until a white or homosexual is hurt by this obnoxious policy, as then and only then will our city speaker, mayor, or police commissioner identify the issue as being problematic.

    This also shows the ridiculous ways in which the NYPD operates as an organization, and enlightens people to the practices that exist. I am glad that I have a better understanding to the mindset of the way some people in the NYPD work and think. These insights and comments a broader understanding to culture and allows people who want to get involved in this work of awareness to know what the are up against.

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  3. Lauren H.

     /  October 15, 2012

    I find the apps to be a very clever way to combat the injustice inflicted by the NYPD. I can’t even count the amount of times, I have walked passed and seen others doing the same, an officer using intimidation tactics to harass a minority for one reason or another. I always felt helpless and unsure if there was something I could do. In NYC, we become so accustom to walking passed and ignoring any vulgar or uncomfortable moments that we forget that we can stop and do something. This app allows for proof of harassment to be sent to an organization that can force the NYPD to be accountable for the actions of their officers and it allows each and everyone one of us to have the power to stand up for the rights of the oppressed.

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  4. Mike K

     /  October 18, 2012

    “The public has an interest in [the] responsible exercise” of the discretion granted police and prosecutors. Ensuring the public’s right to gather information about their officials not only aids in the uncovering of abuses” – Glik v. Boston quoting Cf. Gentile v. State Bar of Nev., 501 U.S. 1030, 1035-36 (1991).

    Ready access to technology may provide the best protection for protecting the rights of innocent members of the community whether young people of color in the boroughs or journalists covering protests (see http://cpj.org/blog/2011/11/at-occupy-protests-us-journalists-arrested-assault.php). As a society we must ensure proper checks and balances on those in power and the abuse of authority against those whom they are sworn to protect like this case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUkiyBVytRQ&feature=youtu.be.

    My one concern is whether the anonymity of those video taping the incidents can be kept due to the discreet nature of the taping, especially since a discreet taping may bring up issues of the execution of the taping and finding out who actually taped the video if they have to go to court will the police and prosecutors use intimidation tactics or rules of evidence to discredit or suppress this evidence.

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  5. C. Cummings

     /  October 21, 2012

    I wish that the NYPD would transform much of its policies. I wish that the NYPD would legitimately earn the respect of the citizens so that if there was ever a need for a stop & frisk procedure we could be assured that it was part of a thoughtful strategy that actually reduced crime. I wish for mounting public concern, forcing the NYPD to rethink and restructure. At the same time, I wish for a safer NYC.

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  6. Caroline L.

     /  October 23, 2012

    This post highlights the participatory attitude we must have in order to fight the oppressive policy of stop and frisk. This policy is so incredibly against our given rights as Americans and our natural liberty. However, such policies cannot be stopped without action being taken against it. Too often be allow systemic injustices to remain purely because of how difficult it is to stand up. Dismantling this type of policy is difficult to do as an individual, but as a community it can be done. The combination of community power and technology (the apps) could be the answer by breaking through the hidden world of police brutality.

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  7. Rebecca McCarthy

     /  October 25, 2012

    I found this article to be interesting. I grew up in Brooklyn,NY and I have found the use of police here to be excessive. Pretty much on a daily to weekly basis there is another story of an act of police violence/brutality. Peaceful protests are often shut down by police in this city, such as the OWS protest. Additionally, there is a lot of stalker-y behavior when it comes to drug,alcohol, traffic and parking violations where cops actively search for someone commiting a violation for the sake of giving someone a ticket. There is a lot of police reform that needs to be done,particularly in NYC.

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  8. Lauren Silver

     /  October 25, 2012

    The NYCLU’s smart phone app makes it very easy and accessible for everyday people to stand up against Stop and Frisk. Putting a stop to the unfair and racist policies of NYC police is necessary. An app such as this puts the power into the hands of the masses, who may end up being the most effective in creating change.

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  9. Mio

     /  October 28, 2012

    The NYCLU app sounds like a great idea. Many of the stops and frisks go on without anyone seeing it.
    I was an observant of unwarranted arrest of a close one but luckily we were able to record the incident on our phone and fight the case. We had a stronger case because we had physical proof.
    Until this incident, I did not realized that the city pays out more than 20 million dollars in settlements due to NYPD misconduct, etc. and unfortunately, NYPD goes unchecked.
    Knowing your rights is the best tool to fight stop and frisks.
    My suggestion is to take a course to become a Legal Observer offered by the National Lawyers Guild. Sticking around and watching cops can deter them from doing illegal acts.

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