Police Accountability App Launches in U.K.*
By Michaela Whitton
An app recently launched in the U.K. enables people stopped and searched by police to capture incriminating footage and report the experience instantly.
Designed to hold police officers to account, the new Y-Stop app was developed by two U.K. groups: Release, which advocates for evidence-based drug policies, and StopWatch, a coalition that promotes police accountability. Lawyers will be employed to assess footage.
Stop and search powers in the U.K. allow officers to search a person if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe the individual is in possession of drugs, weapons, stolen property, or anything that could be used to commit a crime.
Figures released by Stopwatch reveal that in London, black people are stopped and searched at just under 3 times the rate of white people. Officers are also allowed to stop and search a person without suspicion through Section 60, and under that provision, black people are searched at nine times the rate of whites. Those of mixed race are searched at four times the rate of white people while Asians are stopped at just under twice that rate.
Created as a response to police misuse of stop and search powers, the app helps the public instantly capture footage of discriminatory, unprofessional, or unlawful actions. Since it launched six months ago, the U.S. version of the app has been downloaded 170,000 times in California, alone.
A tutorial explains that the app works in two ways: by recording and reporting. After filling in the date and time of the stop, users use a GPS map to pinpoint where the search took place.
After those stopped briefly describe the details of their incident, such as what the officer was looking for, they have two choices: They can send the report just to Y-Stop (which can be done anonymously), or to the police — in which case Y-Stop will get a copy and decide if a lawyer is needed.
Developers have taken into account the possibility that police may take the phone and attempt to delete footage, and as such, designed the app so recorded video and audio information is sent to a server in seconds.