“What am I getting arrested for?” said Alvin, a 17-year old New Yorker. “For being a fucking mutt”, the NYPD officer can be clearly heard saying on the recording from Alvin’s iPod, the only known audio from the 1,800″Stop & Frisk” interrogations New York Police do each day.
Here’s the video containing police interviews and the recording that demonstrates the power mobile devices give citizens to keep law enforcement in check.
A disclaimer. TechCrunch respects the men and women of the NYPD and hasn’t verified all the facts in the video. The video was edited by the left-leaning The Nation, America’s longest continuously published weekly magazine. It’s a respected but not unbiased news source. In some cases, stop & frisks may be justified, and this is not a condemnation of the program as a whole, but a critique of how a few officers acted in a specific situation. However, if the racism and aggression seen in this video are commonplace, the program certainly needs to change.
The video features anonymous interviews with veteran NYPD officers. They detail how police captains said “we’re gonna go out there, and we’re gonna violate some rights”, and that officers won’t be promoted if they don’t perform controversial stop & frisks.
But the video hinges on the secret recording Alvin started just before his street-side interrogation began. When Alvin asked why he was stopped the officer said “for being a fucking mutt”, referring to Alvin’s apparently mixed heritage and skin color. One officer later yells at Alvin, “Dude I am gonna break your fucking arm and then I’m gonna punch you in the fucking face.”
The aggression from the officers could not have been simply recounted and conveyed later. Distant video from a bystander’s full-sized camcorder likely wouldn’t have captured the audio so clearly, if at all. It was the fact that Alvin was recording the encounter himself on his mobile device that brings the NYPD’s practices into focus.
Mobile devices capable of taking video recordings or downloading police monitoring apps like Stop and Frisk Watch from the New York Civil Liberties Union are getting cheaper and more accessible. With any luck, awareness that recordings like Alvin’s can be made will usher in a new age of accountability amongst those in positions of authority. It doesn’t suffice to look both ways before acting inappropriately anymore.
Long ago, the United States granted its citizens the right to bear arms to defend themselves. In the modern age, though, it might be the right to bear phones that protects our liberty.