According to studies, police actions seem to target mostly members of ethnic minorities. Y-Stop, an app that helps people interact better with the police, launched in the UK to curb polie harassment.
The app is the result of cooperation between charities, youth workers, youth clubs and a number of other NGO organizations that cater to the needs of minorities. Release, an organization that advocates for evidence-based drug policies, teamed up with StopWatch, a coalition that promotes police accountability, to get the app going.
The press release of Y-Stop points out how intimidating and frustration-inducing a police encounter - particularly a stop and search procedure - can be, especially when it is targeted towards young people of color.
"It has a serious impact on communities too, creating a complete lack of trust and confidence in the police, as a result of the suspicion, neglect and prejudice we often face," notes the official page of the app.
Y-Stop comes to aid those who face these issues, and it works on iOS and Android alike.
Users may record their interaction with law enforcement officers using audio or video, report the exact place where they got stopped, complain to the superior officers and even contact a lawyer to take legal measures, if need be. Y-Stop also has a neat how-to guide embedded, which trains users to keep a calm composure and maintain eye contact with the policemen over the full encounter.
The developers took into account the possibility that the policemen will take the phone from the person using the app and attempt to delete footage. That is why Release designed the app in such a way that once Y-Stop is turned on, all the video/audio info can be sent to a server in seconds, rendering the deletion useless.
The U.S. variant of the application was developed by the American Civil Liberties Union and is increasingly popular. In California alone, 170 thousand people downloaded the app since its launch six months ago.
Such an app can be a powerful ally because it can be used to hold cops accountable for their actions.
In both the United Kingdom and the United States, police abuse against minorities have made the news. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014 springs to mind, but there are plenty of other cases.
There is another side to the app, though. Police officials are worried that the "Ferguson Effect" - in which officers take a step back from proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop sentiments - might have a boomerang effect on the street patrols.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently reported that out of the 48,000 police officers that were assaulted in 2014, no less than 51 were killed by the attackers.
James Comey, head of the FBI, states that in the aftermath of the Ferguson incident, the actions of the police have become increasingly hesitant, resulting in higher crime rates. An example of this is the surging number of homicide cases in Baltimore, where murders increased by 56 percent since August. Baltimore is the next city that will receive the Y-Stop app.
"Arresting people is not pretty and if something causes them to hesitate at a point when they ought to be moving instinctively, consistent with their training, then that could have disastrous effects," declared James Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.