After aggressive actions in Ferguson, Mo., angry mourners in Charleston and calamity on Baltimore streets, the stage is set for a long, hot summer of protests surrounding police violence against the citizens they are charged with protecting.
Make no mistake: It’s a powder keg. And the next police force that harbors a cop who shoots an unarmed black kid will definitely be pulling out the riot gear.
The problem is that this sort of abuse by police is an ancient one. Cops have been overreaching their authority for as long as there have been cops — not all of them, but some of them. And the only solution is that it has got to stop.
And judging by how law enforcement agencies police themselves these days, that’s not likely to happen without a little leverage.
So on Tuesday the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union announced a new app that enables citizens to monitor police interactions using their smartphones, similar to ACLU apps in other states. It records encounters with police, alerts other users if one feels she is being unlawfully detained and allows for a report of the incident.
It’s based on the Stop and Frisk Watch app, created in New York City to monitor unlawful searches and seizures by the NYPD in June 2012, and has since generated more than 30,000 videos of cops in that city.
In 2012, of the more than 530,000 stops by police in New York City, according to the state ACLU site, 89 percent of those stopped were totally innocent. In 2014, New York cops made just 46,000 stops, fewer than 10 percent of the 2012 total, though 82 percent of those stopped were completely innocent. Still shameful, but the numbers are moving in the right direction
It’s worth noting that the ACLU app has not yet given us any footage that reveals any egregious Constitutional violations — video of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by Staten Island policemen in July 2014, was taken on a regular cell-phone camera. And it’s likely that the videos exonerate police as often as they incriminate them.
But it’s also worth watching the watchers with the same vigilance that they apply to us.
Find the Mobile Justice NC app in the App Store.