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Is Videotaping Police By Using New ACLU App a Good Idea?

An ACLU chapter has come up with a smart phone app that allows citizens to record and store video and audio of police encounters. Do you think it is right to make this app available to citizens?

Dacula Patch reported recently on a free smartphone app that the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has launched that allows citizens to record and store both video and audio of police encounters.

“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs in a statement posted on the chapter's website. “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.” 

The app operates in "stealth" mode. Once recording begins, the app disappears from the screen "to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording."

The “Police Tape” app is available for free download for Android at the moment at http://www.aclu-nj.org/yourrights/the-app-place/. An Apple version is expected to follow.

Do you think this is a good idea? Is it acceptable to secretly tape the police?

Kristi Reed (Editor) July 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who would feel the need to use this app would be more likely to record incriminating evidence against themselves than the police.
Steve Burns (Editor) July 07, 2012 at 02:23 PM
There also might be legal issues involved. Police video likely is admissible in court; videos shot with this app may not be.
Sharon Swanepoel July 07, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I'm even fascinated by the concept behind the radar detector. It's like acknowledging that it is your intention to break the law. But that's just me - others in my family are happy to use it. :)
Sup Samjin July 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
This is one of the best apps ever! In a perfect Utopian society, we could believe that police follow the law. However, even when videotaped, police have been set free by juries who still say they look more like their neighbors or relatives than the "criminals" they have wrongly abused or killed (need I remind people of Oscar Grant who was just riding BART home and Rodney King?). Even stopping people without reason can result in unnecessary brutality and accidents (NYC 2011-2012) so this is great for onlookers who are concerned about unauthorized police power (Last year, a Rochester, NY woman was arrested for standing in her own yard and videotaping police stop in front of her house). GREAT JOB ACLU.
Sharon Swanepoel July 07, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I do tend to believe that if you're going to be doing your job properly, you should not fear being videotaped doing it. I just have a problem with editing. We all know that showing just one side of an issue can give a totally different perception. If there was a way to ensure that all sides are accurately portrayed, without any creative editing, then it is one thing. In the same vein here, if you don't have anything to fear in being fingerprinted then I don't see why everybody shouldn't be fingerprinted for their licenses - and if you aren't trying to vote when you shouldn't, I don't see why you shouldn't have to prove you are who you say you are when you vote.
M.L. Gilmore July 07, 2012 at 08:47 PM
You may be correvt with your "sneaking suspicion". But, I think you are completely 100% incorrect. I have a sneaking suspicion that you have never been subjected to the harassment and dehumanizing tactics of closed minded police officers who only look for the negative.Just because someone puts on a uniform does not mean they automatically become fair, impartial and decent. In fact the majority of officers have a superiority complex. IF they are legitimate and honest why would anyone, including yourself object to being recordedin the process of performing their LEGAL duty?
Kristi Reed (Editor) July 07, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Hi M.L. - I did not say I objected to the use of the app, I just said I had a suspicion it would hurt, more than help, many of those that choose to use it. If someone wants to use the app, they should be able to do so. Also, based upon my personal experience, I would have to disagree with your assessment that the majority of officers have a superiority complex. There will always be a few bad apples in every profession, but I wouldn't paint every law enforcement officer with the same broad stroke.
M.L. Gilmore July 07, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Ms. Kristi....I have to stand corrected on one point and concede defeat....You are correct in that not all of the officers have this superiority complex....There are good and bad in all and there are quite a few good ones out there also. Unfortunately, they are not the ones which we hear much about. Actually I have run into several of them myself lately and i have to say i was confused because their respectful attitudes are not the norm to me....Our law enforcement does need to be respected but at the same time they need to give respect if they expect to get it.....I still say however that this shoukd be a good way of covering their behinds as well as ours, if, in fact their actions are legal........
Kristi Reed (Editor) July 07, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Hi M.L. - I'm glad you have had some better encounters of late. It is always sad to see instances of police breaking the public trust. And you are absolutely right - respect should be earned, not demanded.
John B July 08, 2012 at 01:14 PM
So if I wanted to create a video app for my place of business that monitored employees for "accountability purposes" would I have the support of the ACLU?
M.L. Gilmore July 08, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Yes John, I think they might support you if your job involves attitudes and perceptions and actions which can determine the fate of a person. The Law Enforcement are supposed to be there to protect the general public, not abuse them.Thousands of people have lost their lives due to lies and platitudes from supposed law enforcement and our lopsided justice system.....What are you afraid of sir? What is it that you feel the police are doing that you dont want exposed?
John B July 08, 2012 at 06:45 PM
The ACLU would never support placing employees under surveillance. That said, I wouldn't be a proponent of it either. To answer your question, I'm not afraid of anything. My point was I think the ACLU is selective in who they represent. If anyone sounds paranoid it's you. You're painting law enforcement with a broad brush due to some history you may have had. I've been around for 50 years and have never had a problem with law enforcement. It begs the question why they keep bothering you???
M.L. Gilmore July 08, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Mr. John....in all actuality i was being sarcastic when i said they may assist you with your undercover endeavors but from the nasty little tude you just displayed I now understand....First of all I have as much right to my opinion as you have to yours, 2cnd I really dont care what you think on any subject and thirdly I wonder why they allow people like you to spout off your Rush Limbaugh rhetoric ,BUT, it is a free country and we are all entitled to our opinions...even you sir...so keep it nice and just state your purpose instead of casting assumptions and aspersions......Law enforcement is not a private company and as their word is taken above the average citizens they MUST be held to a higher standard of conduct...Otherwise they are just YOU....making noise.
Tammy Osier July 08, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I'm with you on the begged question. It would be nice if all law enforcement experiences were Mayberry-esque, where you had cross walk duty, occasional domestic stuff and traffic citations, but that is not the case. When a law officer is having to deal with someone high on crack cocaine and possibly armed, it is probably not the easiest takedown and an onlooker seeing that might assume police brutality, or maybe try finding a dead body before you've even had breakfast etc...Live in their shoes for a day. In this case, I see more people taking advantage of this (using liberal lawyers and judges) and ruining the lives of good officers for the sake of a few who are not. A good idea is to not have frequent brushes with the law and you should be good to go. Case in point, someone on facebook recently with a picture of them outside a police precinct shooting birds at the building (after having gotten out...again). Someone who thinks maybe the police are pigs because they won't let them do whatever they want to anybody they want? Might need a lifestyle change? lol
Tammy Osier July 08, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Aren't there already video tapes in the cars? And you have people pulling out their phones now and sending things to youtube to go viral. I'm with Sharon and Kristi- Most likely incriminate oneself more than Police, but as Sharon said, the editing that can be done to hook somebody might tie up the legal system worse than it already is.
M.K. OSBORNE July 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
The ACLU would never support placing employees under surveillance . what ? They must be sleeping then ! cameras are everywhere in retail and other jobs such as offices etc. and yes they are used in non security situations involving employees on the job.
John B July 08, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Let's see...I have a "tude." You don't care about what I think on any subject. You're not sure why "they" (whomever they are) allow me to spout off RL rhetoric. And lastly you refer to me as "people like you." And now you're instructing me to keep it nice. Well, you did call me sir, I guess that counts for something.
Marne M July 09, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I am a police officer. When I was still on the road, I audio-taped every encounter I had with citizens, simply because then there would never be any confusion about what I did or did not say. I have no fear of being taped. We're starting to carry personal video recorders now too -- it's optional, for the time being, but I see it becoming required in the future. Technology is changing the world. I figured we'd better be ready for it. Many of us are going to find ourselves on tape more and more often.
Ryan Smith (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Really? The ACLU was happy to represent Rush Limbaugh, one of their biggest detractors.

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