Last week I wrote about Apps for driving, and this week I would like to continue the theme, but with Apps that aim to protect the user from police harassment.
The first I would like to look at is called Stop and Frisk Watch, and has been developed with the help of the non-profit organization Make The Road New York. The App is designed so that the user can record both audio and video of police interactions in the community (with the screen black so that evidence is less likely to be destroyed), is alerted when other users are doing the same in the area, and has a direct reporting system so that any interaction can be reported in real time. Just shake the phone and the video is sent directly to a lawyer. It also contains a document that outlines an individual’s rights while recording the police in action.
The App is downloadable here through the New York Civil Liberties Union website.
The groups that are advocating the use of such Apps tend to be minority groups, who believe that they are treated differently from other members of society due to their race or religion, and hope that recording the police at work might help to address this issue. If we think back a few years to the Rodney King case in LA in 1991 we can see that video technology has held a place in these types of issues for some time. We should also remember that riots were triggered in which 53 people were killed when the police were acquitted and so this is not a technology without implications for all sides. If you watch the video of the beating though you can see why the acquittal caused so much anger.
UPDATE: I just want to clarify that 2 officers were later charged with civil rights violations related to the Rodney King case mentioned in the article and found guilty and imprisoned. Also readers should be aware that the use of these Apps to film the police may not be legal in certain states, a problem that I touched upon last week regarding radar tracking equipment in cars.
Also in New York the Sikh Coalition is making an App available called FlyRights. This App allows the user to file complaints about air travel discrimination in real time and directly to the correct authorities. If a user feels they have been profiled or are being searched because they are wearing religious dress such as a turban or veil they can report discrimination on the grounds of religion or race.
There are many other Apps like this, and supporters argue that they could become the base as a new civil rights movement, after all the phone is one of the few things that most people carry everywhere they go. A Swiss army knife for civil rights right there in your pocket for some, a dangerous tool for others, once more we are in a debatable position. In many states in the US it is illegal to film the police and action is taken against those who do, so an App that allows someone to do it without being noticed may be looked upon with suspicion.