The American Civil Liberties Union Mobile Justice free smart phone application, created to empower individuals to hold law enforcement personnel accountable for their actions by recording them is up and running in 18 states.
The app was initially rolled out in four states in 2014. Today’s 18 states include Arizona, where Winslow police Officer Austin Shipley fatally shot a Navajo mother five times in March for allegedly wielding a pair of scissors.
The ACLU app, available for both Android and iOS, lets a person take audio and video of police encounters, then saves the recording to your phone while quickly uploading it to the ACLU website. The app also provides helpful legal information about interacting with police, and can be set up to send an alert when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby. Besides Arizona, it is also available in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
The ACLU app has three main functions: Record, Witness, and Report. RECORD allows citizens to capture the actions of police officers when interacting with other community members in video files (the app does not record audio in some states) that are automatically sent to the ACLU in your state. The WITNESS function sends out an alert when another user is taking video of a police stop so that community members nearby can move toward the location and also document the interaction. REPORT gives users the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU in your state. There is also a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS feature that provides an overview of the protections individuals are entitled to when stopped by law enforcement officers.
In New York, the ACLU’s “Stop and Frisk Watch” is a free, innovative app that allows citizens to monitor police activity and thus hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other misconduct.
The apps are meant for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. The ACLU cautions users to exercise caution when interacting with law enforcement and attempting to use the app to document the exchange, as a person's safety depends on his or her ability to clearly communicate one's actions and remain calm. The human rights organization recommends that users announce that they are reaching for your phone and are attempting to access the app to record the exchange. If the officer forbids or prevents someone from doing so, they should not argue or resist, the ACLU said. Follow the officers’ instructions. If a person's rights have been violated, his or her attorney will argue the case later.
If the officer attempts to touch your screen in an effort to destroy the evidence you’ve captured, don’t worry. The moment the recording is stopped it will automatically be sent to the ACLU. Find the apps in the Google Play Store for Android phones, and the App Store for iPhones.
Follow Terri Hansen on Twitter @TerriHansen