Monday, June 11, 2012

Stop "Stop and Frisk"

The New York Civil Liberties Union in conjunction with The Bronx Defenders filed a civil lawsuit in April of this year on behalf of 13 plaintiffs challenging New York's "Clean Halls" program. According to the complaint, thousands of residents in buildings enrolled in the Clean Halls program are subject to being stopped and illegally ticketed or arrested for trespassing in their own buildings if they fail to produce identification when they take out the garbage, check the mail, duck out to the store for a quart of milk. Young people growing up in these buildings, lawyers say, are routinely searched without legal cause and detained. The lawsuit, which charges the city with violating the Fourth Amendment and the Federal Fair Housing Act, is similar to one filed two years ago against the New York Police Department and the city’s public housing agency, which is alleged to have employed a similar patrol system. The New York Timesran a story on the lawsuit and the program. The Bronx Defenders are offering a "Stop & Frisk" T-shirt to raise money for the lawsuit as well as to raise awareness into this unconstitutional practice. You can get a t-shirt and support a good cause at the same time-always a win win. On June 7th, the New York Civil Liberties Union created a "Stop and Frisk" app that allows users to quickly record and report "stop and frisk" incidents. The NYPD were critical of the app, stating that it could put users in danger. A video demonstration of the app is available here and the app's functions are described below:
A spokesperson for the NYCLU, Jason Javier, described a stop and frisk incident. "As it's happening," he said in a PIX11 interview, "You're feeling defeseless, and even as it doesn't happen, it makes you feel it could happen." That sort of anxiety and frustration is what motivated software designer Jason Van Anden. "I believe in the power of technology to effect positive change," he said at a newsconference hosted by the NYCLU on Wednesday. He said his belief led him to create the Stop and Frisk app for Android smartphones. An iPhone app is not yet available, but is expected to be released next month. The app has three main functions: to record, listen and report a stop and frisk incident to the NYCLU. "The app allows you to record a stop-and-frisk as it's happening," Javier said about the record function. The listen function allows an app user to listen to any other stop and frisk incidents in the vicinity near the user. "This is especially helpful for community groups that monitor police activity," an NYCLU spokesperson says on the organization's website,, which is where the app can be downloaded. The report function leads the app user to a questionnaire with a series of questions pertaining to a stop and frisk the user may have just observed, including asking about the race and gender of the person who was stopped, and the race and gender of the officers involved. It also asks, among other questions, if force was used in the stop and frisk encounter. The user then sends the completed questionnaire to the NYCLU.

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