Want to Record Police Abuse? There's an App for That

Human Rights

Californians who want to record police abuse on their cellphones do not have to worry about cops trying to snatch the footage, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ACLU of California announced last Thursday that it will release an app for people to record police officers they suspect are violating someone's civil rights. The app is simple: download the app, “Mobile JusticeCA,” hit record and capture the moment of potential police abuse. When the video stops, it goes directly to the local ACLU branch and is preserved. So even if a cop takes your phone or tries to damage it, the video will be safe.

“We’ve seen incidents of uses of force, of police abuse that likely would have gone unnoticed but have instead become the subject of national attention because a member of the public pulled out a phone and started video recording,” Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the ACLU of California, told the Chronicle.

New York City’s ACLU chapter was the first to create such an app in 2012.

According to the Los Angeles Times, other chapters have rolled out similar apps in their respective states. Android users in Mississippi have submitted at least 50 videos. In Missouri, 570 recordings from 2,500 were submitted but haven’t raised any red flags, according to ACLU officials. Since 2012, New York City users have submitted more than 40,000 recordings since its chapter released the app to address the now defunct “Stop and Frisk” practice.

Over the past year, video footage has proven vital in drawing attention to incidents of police brutality. Cellphone footage of 25-year-old Baltimore man Freddie Gray being dragged away screaming in pain,and the fact that he died one week later, galvanized locals to hit the streets in protests. Video of Walter Scott’s shooting at the hands of a South Carolina officer was also caught on cellphone video by a bystander and the officer who shot him is charged with murder. It was crucial evidence because the officer claimed that Scott reached for his Taser, but the video of the incident doesn’t show that.

As more people become savvy about pulling out their cellphones when they suspect police misconduct, it will be interesting to see how many recordings of abusive law enforcement actions will lead to prosecutions and convictions. Or perhaps it will have a chilling effect on brutality and abuse before it happens.


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