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Fargo, North Dakota, Police Using Periscope App to Stream Traffic Stops

Police Stream Traffic Stops Live on Periscope 1:46

Police in Fargo, North Dakota, are apparently on the pulse of a new tech trend — broadcasting traffic stops via live video streaming.

But the use of the app Periscope and similar smartphone tools has many asking if they're an effective way to raise awareness about public safety — or simply a device for public shaming.

"It's just another form to talk to people," Fargo police officer Jessica Schindeldecker told NBC affiliate KVLY.

"We want people to ask us questions or be able to interact with us in a positive way, and this was just one more form of them to be able to do that," she added.

Fargo police on Wednesday livestreamed traffic stops near North Dakota State University using Periscope, an app owned by Twitter.

While Schindeldecker said the police department is trying to be "sensitive" about what is shared via Periscope, some drivers questioned having police interactions on display in such an uncensored way.

"If you're either friends with that person or knew who that was, (or) recognized the car, you can tell who that is," said Fargo resident Mara Paulson. "I think it would be more for entertainment purposes for everyone watching, not like, 'Oh, I shouldn't do that type of thing.'"

But other police departments and public safety agencies say Periscope can be an empowering tool — in light of the increasing use of cameras to capture incidents of perceived police brutality.

Troy Doyle, a St. Louis County lieutenant colonel, drew attention last week after he used Periscope to chronicle a night of unrest in the state:

T.J. Smith, a Baltimore police spokesman who joined the department two weeks ago, is another law enforcement official who has been using Periscope. He said he wants to showcase officers as they're out on patrols and broadcast news conferences.

"We as an agency need to become more transparent," Smith told NBC News on Friday. "Things are literally now at our fingertips, and we should take advantage of (social media platforms) if they work for us."

He's wary about livestreaming traffic stops or other situations that could compromise people's privacy. But, he added, breaking down barriers between police and citizens is essential.

"We don't need to have this big wall, this veil of secrecy," he said. "If we can get to the community directly, we should try what's out there."