Why This Video App Will Eradicate Police Misconduct

Why This Video App Will Eradicate Police Misconduct

I was reading this extract on Reuters earlier and was blown away. It is fantastic to see how creatively camera apps are being used for the peoples' benefit for once, especially in the wake of the Walter Scott case. 

Whilst the majority of the police force are upholding the law properly, as with any huge organization, there are going to be some bad apples whom are corrupted by the power that the badge brings and joined the police force for entirely the wrong reasons. This bright civil liberties group have revolutionized the use of a camera through this app, making it easier than ever for average citizens and bystanders to show what is happening at a crime scene. As this app is rolled out in more and more major cities, I can imagine a day in the not too distant future when police misconduct is completely wiped out:

A California civil liberties group launched a mobile application on Thursday that will let bystanders record cell phone videos of possible cases of police misconduct and then quickly save the footage to the organization's computer servers.

The California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the app will send the video to the organization and preserve it even if a phone is seized by police or destroyed.

The launch of the ACLU's "Mobile Justice CA" app comes as law enforcement agencies face scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against African-Americans, following several high-profile deaths of unarmed black men in encounters with police over the last year in the United States.

"It's critical that people understand what is being done by police officers, because what is being done is being done in the name of the public," said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

The app is targeted at residents of the most populous U.S. state, but ACLU chapters have launched similar mobile apps in at least five other states, including New York, Missouri and Mississippi over the last three years.

It also sends an alert to anyone with the app who might be in the area, giving them an opportunity to go to the location and observe, the ACLU said.

Villagra said the ACLU, in looking at which cases to delve into more deeply, will prioritize those that come with a written report, which is another element users can submit through the app. Records of incidents from users living in other states will be sent to ACLU officials there, he said.

ACLU officials advised anyone interacting directly with officers who wants to use the app to announce they are reaching for a phone, because officers might mistake the device for a weapon.

A representative from the California Peace Officers Association declined to comment immediately on the app.

In the past, advocates for police have expressed concern that people videotaping officers might interfere with their duties in an already tense situation.

This week in Los Angeles, the city's Police Commission approved rules governing the use of body cameras as its police department moves toward becoming the largest in the nation to put the devices into widespread use.

Some people may argue that we entrust our police force to make tough decisions and that video footage and stills can be taken out of context... but the bottom line is that when all we have to go on is the word of the police officer that was there, it is possible that the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be skewed somewhat. Video footage can cast vital light onto such situations with far less ambiguity and justice can be served.

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15 Comments

good idea I guess?? It's crazy we need an app for this.

Adam T's picture

I hope people know their states. Some states it's a felony to record any audio without consent even in public.

David Vaughn's picture

I think those laws refer to audio recordings, not necessarily audio pertaining to video. If it is legal to record video in a public place, then subsequently, the audio within the video would have to be legal as well...

...within reason. I'm sure it's illegal to have a secret lapel hooked up to a camera.

Otherwise, it would be much like that law that sought to illegalize having nonconsenting bystanders in photos, and that would only open doors for more police misconduct.

"Yes, this video shows a man being beaten, but since you didn't get consent for the audio, we have to throw it out."

Adam T's picture

Depends on where you are.
cnet (dot) com/news/woman-allegedly-records-her-own-arrest-charged-with-wiretapping/

David Vaughn's picture

"However, Massachusetts is also the home of the 2011 case Glik vs. Cunniffe. This decision declared that a private citizen has the right to record the activities -- both video and audio recording -- of a public official in the course of his or her duties, as long as those activities are in a public place.

Indeed, in this case, it was ruled that an arrest for wiretapping is a violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments."

This app is just simplifying this process. It would be incredibly difficult to charge someone for recording an arrest, and it's downright illegal for the police to tamper with such evidence.

Police are private citizens, but they require more accountability than the average person, since they hold more power.

Adam T's picture

inquisitr (dot) com/1209361/disabled-boy-records-bullies-tormenting-him-police-charge-him-with-illegal-wiretapping/

David Vaughn's picture

This was an audio recording from what I can tell. Not video, so the laws about recording audio without consent still apply.

Adam T's picture

yes law enforcement in certain states are saying audio in the videos are still breaking the laws. I think this needs to be sorted out by the court systems and should be a right.

Adam T, this is not true. There have been some very provocative headlines, but they are misleading. The "eavesdropping bill" in Illinois and elsewhere pertain only to the need to obtain consent in "private" conversations, where the expectation of privacy clearly exists. It does not however pertain to recording in public spaces where no expectation of privacy exists. Further, your and my right to record audio, video and to photograph police doing their jobs in public has been before the Supreme Court, tested and upheld. It is the law of the land and part of your First Amendment rights.

The right to record police in public has been challenged in court and ultimately defeated. For instance, Illinois had the most restrictive anti-police-recording law and it was vigorously enforced until the IL Supreme Court struck it down. It was basically written as an anti-eavesdropping to try and make it legal, but the courts saw right through that.

Daniel Lee's picture

Sounds like a great app. The Young Turks reported the footage from the upcoming body cameras the cops have to wear will be available to them so they can make their statements according to the footage. Having this app will corroborate what the police claim if they are telling the truth, if not it will catch them out in their lies!

Or we could all just not break the law and not have to worry about how the police treat us?

One doesn't have to be breaking the law in order to be harassed by police. I was photographing an Occupy protest and threatened with arrest and destruction of my photos. I'm quite certain that if a scuffle hadn't occurred a hundred yards away I would have been put in handcuffs.

This won't stop abuse cold, for the simple reason that the police are not suddenly going to demilitarize, they are not suddenly going to drop the blue wall of silence, they are not going to stop fighting tooth and nail to resist any form of public accountability, and they are not going to suddenly decide that they have been doing community relations all wrong.

What this will do is increase the frequency of proof of abuse. The Walter Scott killing was remarkable in that it is virtually impossible for the police brutality apologists to rationalize away, to attack the victim, to somehow try to make it justified. Without the clear, stark, inescapable proof, too many people let the cops off the hook by a mixture of reflex, racism, and fear. Without the video Walter Scott would have been just another "justified killing" statistic and everyone knows that by how the cover-up was rolling along before the video was released.

The simple fact is that the police cannot continue to do "business as usual" in an era of increased attention and scrutiny. What happened in Baltimore didn't happen in a vacuum. In a time when an incident of police brutally killing an unarmed black man seems to be a weekly event, the old ways of keeping the lid on the pot aren't working. The more video we see, the more we see that the models we have in place tor law enforcement are simply incompatible with our own conscience, with our ideas about freedom and justice.

We are approaching a crisis, where it will no longer be possible to ignore, excuse, and rationalize. Police will no longer control the narrative about how policing is done. It's about time.