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ACLU App Fights Bad Cops

July 6, 2012 by  

ACLU App Fights Bad Cops
The ACLU has released a new app called Police Tape.

A quick search on YouTube using terms like “police misconduct,”  “illegal police stops,” “police unlawfully detain,” etc. proves one thing: Cellphone technology has changed the way police and the public interact and provides citizens valuable tools to protect liberties.

Many times, this new ability to record police has been unwelcome by officers, some of whom have confiscated devices and attempted to remove recordings of encounters with the citizenry. And Americans have been conditioned to feel that they should cede to the requests of authority figures without question.

New Jersey’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, wants to make it easier for Americans to know their rights in the event that they must interact with law enforcement while also being able to discreetly record the encounter. With the help of mobile phone technology, the civil rights advocacy organization has released a new app called Police Tape.

The Police Tape app, which is currently available for Android phones and will soon be released for iPhones, has three functions: a “Know Your Rights” button that gives users an overview of their legal rights after they indicate whether they are interacting with police on the street, in a car and in their home, as well as advising them what to do if they are certain they’ll be arrested; a discreet audio-recording function; and a discreet video-recording function. With the help of the app, users are able to record police interactions without the screen of their mobile device indicating they are doing so. The phone also then saves the information in a hidden location that makes it harder for police to find and delete if they confiscate the device.

“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

Incidents sent to the ACLU via the app get reviewed and also saved to an external server.

The app developer, OpenWatch, which is offering the product to users free of charge, offers this on its website:

The surveillance state has arrived and it is here to stay. The benefit to society in terms of security and justice is too great for it to ever go away. There is a problem, however, and the problem is not the technology. The problem is the lopsided distribution of who is in control of that technology. Surveillance technology is currently only in the hands of those who are already in power, which means it cannot be used to combat the largest problem facing modern society: abuse of power.

So the question remains: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – roughly, Who watches the watchers?

This is where OpenWatch comes in. The recent ubiquity of mobile telephones with media recording capabilities and the ability to run any software the users chooses gives the public a very powerful tool. Now, we are all equipped to become opportunistic journalists. Whenever any of us come in contact with power being used or abused, we can capture it and make it become part of the public record. If we seek truth and justice, we will be able to appeal to documentary evidence, not just our word against theirs. Ideally, this will mean less corruption, more open government and a more transparent society.

The New York ACLU released a similar app last month called “Stop and Frisk Watch” to encourage those in the city subjected to a random stop and frisk to record the encounter.

The increasing interest in citizens keeping tabs on law enforcement comes on the heels of a number of high-profile stories of police misconduct.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Robert Smith

    I really like the part where it’s sent from the phone for outside evaluation.

    Indeed… Who does watch the watchers?


    • FreedomFighter

      The ACLU or American Communist Legal Union should not be trusted, even if they do some good once in a blue moon

      Laus Deo
      Semper Fi

      • DavidL

        Some good? Here is a sampling of SOME of the good achieved by the ACLU:

      • Gary L

        You are right FreedomFighter. The ACLU is all to often involved in hindering the civil liberties of some, especially Christians.

      • Robert Smith

        Can you give us some examples?

        Didn’t think so.


      • Jay

        ACLU: The foremost missionary organization of Abortionism and related cults such as Evangelical Paganism. Variously known as Atheists, Communists and Liars Unscrupulous; Anti-Christian Litigation Union and Abortionite Confraternity of Litigious Ultra-Leftists.

        An organization devoted to destroying the moral foundations of American society by
        eradicating the influence of religion from public life.

  • roger gunderson

    Good news. I’ve had many run-ins with the cops in my life, and most of them were unnecessarily rude,arrogant, macho, liars considering I had done nothing wrong. I would like to see , every time a police stops a person, that the police must give that person a card telling that person the exact reason or probable cause they were stopped and have their name, rank and badge number on it and signed. And on this card would be a place for my comments on how the police treated me and the address of an independent agency that would look into such matters.

    • Robert Smith

      “I’ve had many run-ins with the cops in my life,”

      What did you do to attract their attention?

      Was it a DWB (driving while black)?

      Were you doing something like being drunk in public?


  • copakeman

    what will happen when police realize that civilians have stealth video recorders in their vehicles, the police will start wearing masks, shileds will be covered, and swat teams will be called for every traffic stop. your vehicle will then be incinerated and you will just dissappear from the face of the earth. case closed because it was never opened.
    flame throwers will now be a required armament of all police personel accross our country.
    do 55 and stay alive.
    my thanks to the aclu.

  • http://Google Mike

    I hate to endorse the ACLU for any aspect of their agenda. However this may be a case of “even the blind hog finding an acorn”. The abuse of police power is becoming rampant, along with intimidation, coverups, a lack of accountability and consequences, that needs to be exposed.

    Citizens posses the technology to collect the “evidence”. Unfortunately the “system” chooses to criminalize, suppress or ignore the collection of that evidence. Citizen respect for law, and law enforcement becomes a casualty.

    If we don’t like the ACLU leading the way on this issue, then it is incumbent on political, law enforcement, and judicial venues to act and lead while they still can.

    • Robert Smith

      “If we don’t like the ACLU leading the way on this issue, then it is incumbent on political, law enforcement, and judicial venues to act and lead while they still can.”

      Actually the right wing has figured out how to handle criminals better than the ACLU.

      When someone like Scooter Libby gets caught their president steps in.


      • Mike Stanley

        And Eric Holder? Absolute power corrupts.

      • Jay

        Don’t you mean, Eric Himmler, Mike?

  • okaloosacountyherald

    Good idea, but what about the the cool cops? The last two times I was stopped, I was able to get off with a warning both times, and I deserved both tickets. The cops were dudes, and I posess no cleavage, long legs or full lips, I’m just a grisled old retired Navy Deep Sea Diver. Hope there is a section for examples of what protect and SERVE means, and then maybe some of the more, shall we say….. slightly over zealous officers will see how things can be resolved without having to drain a guys wallet in tough economic timses, by viewing good cops, protecting AND serving. I will however be getting the APP though :-) keep on fighting for our liberties,

  • revnowwhilewecan

    I do recognize that the ACLU is a “leftist” group but I still refuse to judge groups based on the false left/right paradigm and only on their individual actions, not their collective ones. This is a great idea because transparency is the only real solution to ANY corruption.

    Good job Sam, pointing out a great idea from a “leftist” group on a “righty” blog? Who says you guys can’t get along?

  • mr noname

    Here’s a winner – stream video Live to online storage as it happens!!! Obey
    the “nice” Ossefer & give up ur phone if demanded … the video is already online!!
    Free or Premium accounts.
    I just found it, haven’t used it yet….it’s now owned by Skype.

    • Whit

      Micro$oft now owns Skype.

  • FEDUP!

    Yeah usually the ACLU seems pretty unamerican on most issues!

    • Nadzieja Batki

      So why is the ACLU not staying true to type?

  • Sanity Perhaps

    What is a ‘bad’ cop? Are they born bad or are they conditioned to be bad? A little of both? Well, both are right in their own respect.. For the upper ranks to to employ wannabe bullies and then overlooking certain bad habits and even encourging them at times to lie, cheat and steal in order to (setup) an other wise bad guy can also produce corruption. Hiring the most moral is good on paper but is soon looked on as socialistic as they replace morality with “get it done by any means”.. It’s the brasses fault we have bullies with badges on the beat while the logical force operates behind desks. (uncle louie told me that).

  • Barry Daughenbaugh

    Definitely have to get this app. We must use surveillance, when in a surveillance society such as ours has become, to protect ourselves. I think law enforcement shoudl be on camera at all times by everyone, it is the only way to stop and prevent the corruption.

  • Don Snyder

    I just got out of traffic court this morning where the cop out-right lied and blew up any defense I had. Its appaling and scares the heck out of me. What if this had been a more serious incident invoving jail time or worse! The thought that I might end up in jail because a cop felt like putting me there should shock any freedom lover. The government grows bigger requiring more enforcement and thus more injustice. I’m afraid this country is becoming more of a police state and an enemy to our individual liberty. In the end, the government is NOT your friend.


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