New Jersey’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has taken its mission of policing the police to smartphones.
The ACLU has released an app called “Police Tape” that lets users secretly record police stops.
The ACLU’s Alexander Shalom said the app is easy to use.
“There’s really only three buttons that the user needs to deal with,” Shalom said. “There’s a know your rights button that educates the citizen about their rights when encountering police on the street, in a car, in their home or when they’re going to be placed under arrest, and there’s a button to record audio and a button to record video.”
Shalom hopes the app will deter police officers from misusing their power.
“You can think back to when Rodney King was beaten at the hands of the LAPD,” Shalom said. “For years, we’ve watched the police on video and that’s led to reforms and police accountability, but now that cellphones and smartphones are becoming more ubiquitous, people have this ability to videotape. It really is a cutting-edge tool to ensure accountability in the 21st century.”
The app lets users record audio and video discretely with a stealth mode that hides the fact that the recording is happening.
Shalom said officers would also have a harder time deleting the recorded incidents.
“Unlike a recording that’s just done in the standard camera or video mode on someone’s telephone, it’s a little more complicated to find these files and delete them. So it can theoretically be done but it would take a far more tech-savvy police officer to do it,” Shalom said.
Users can store the recording on their phones or send a copy to the ACLU-NJ for backup storage and analysis of possible civil liberties violations.
The app is currently available for Android users and a version for iPhones is in the works.
The New York branch of the ACLU released a similar app, called “Stop-and-Frisk Watch,” last month.
ACLU leaders said the only other branch with an app like this one is New York.