By Terri Hansen
The American Civil Liberties Union Mobile Justice free smart phone application, created to empower individuals to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions by recording them is legal, and up and running in 18 states, including Arizona, where an unnamed police officer fatally shot a Navajo mother five times last month for allegedly wielding a pair of scissors.
The ACLU app, available for both Android and iOS, lets you take audio and video of police encounters, then saves the recording to your phone while it quickly uploads it to the ACLU’s website. It provides users with 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.
The app 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’s 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.
It also has a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS feature that provides an overview of what rights protect individuals when they are stopped by law enforcement officers.
In New York, use the ACLU’s “Stop and Frisk Watch,” a free and innovative app that allows citizens to monitor police activity, and hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other police 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 your own caution when interacting with law enforcement and attempting to use the app to document your exchange, as your safety depends on your ability to clearly communicate your actions and to remain calm.
They recommend that users announce that you are reaching for your phone. Announce that you are attempting to access the app to record the exchange. If the officer forbids or prevents you from doing so, do not argue or resist. Follow the officers’ instructions. If your rights have been violated, your attorney will argue your 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 on Twitter @TerriHansen