A new phone app from the ACLU is designed to run in the background on Android cellphones and an audio only version for the iPhone. The feature allows users to record video or audio without showing on the phones screen. In case the officer asks to see your phone he or she won’t be able to tell that it is in fact recording.
“Police often videotape civilians and civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police,” Alexander Shalom, ACLU NJ’s policy counsel told The Star-Ledger . “When people know they’re being watched, they tend to behave well.”
While this particular app is technically only legal for use in New Jersey, there is a growing market for similar apps in places around the globe. It seems like it will only be a matter of time until similar applications are made available.
Why the sudden trend of videotaping police? Other than the obvious facts of the proliferation of video and picture capturing devices out there is the fact that it is a way to keep ourselves safe from corrupt police who take advantage of their position within the community. Anyone decrying their use must have something to lose, something they don’t want people to see on video camera.
There is no reason why officers should be scared to be taped unless they are doing something wrong. They should be following the rules and regulations set down for them in a polite and helpful manner. That is their job, that is what they are paid to do. It should not be that in America we should be scared of our police. We pay them to keep us safe but instead they have become parasites, feeding off of hard-working American citizens.
“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said in a statement. “Too often incidents of serious misconduct go unreported because citizens don’t feel that they will be believed. Here, the technology empowers citizens to place a check on police power directly.”
Courts throughout the country are throwing out cases of people being charged with crimes for taping their encounters with police. That SHOULD embolden us, the people. Judges and juries are people as well, we all live under the shadow of the police. If you do get caught taping a police officer and do get charged, don’t feel intimidated. Allowing an officer to intimidate you is letting that officer ‘win’. Be polite, be firm. If your rights are violated, don’t plea bargain, that let’s them win as well.
Here’s a link to the Youtube video released by the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=a85JsJZsdIM
This is a link to an NYCLU provided for New Yorkers that starts recording using a dedicated button on the side of the phone and stops recording if the camera is shaken. Anyone else using the app is alerted that someone on the network is being stopped and frisked: http://www.nyclu.org/app
-Ethan I. Solomon