Design

The Mobile Justice App Records and Reports Police Encounters 

by Tasbeeh Herwees

April 30, 2015

The ACLU of California and the Ella Baker Center (EBC) launched a new app on Thursday that will allow Californians to record videos to report police encounters from their phone. The Mobile Justice CA app—versions of which are available for Nebraska, Oregon, and Missouri—not only captures and saves video, it also immediately transmits the footage to the ACLU, before law enforcement officers might have an opportunity to delete the video from the phone.

"People who historically have had very little power in the face of law enforcement now have this tool to reclaim their power and dignity," said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and director of the Truth and Reinvestment Campaign at EBC. "Our vision is that this app will ultimately help community members connect and organize to respond to incidents of law enforcement violence, and then share their experiences and knowledge with others."

Police violence is nothing new, but this current spate of police killings of unarmed black men has galvanized communities in widespread protests, the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since the beating of Rodney King in the early 90s. What characterizes the Rodney King incident and the more recent killings of Eric Garner and Walter Scott, among others, is that they were captured on camera. The ability to record video and distribute the footage on a mass scale has enabled citizens with the power to hold law enforcement accountable and to give testimony to their hostile interactions with police in the past. The Mobile Justice app goes one step further by introducing a third witness to the interaction: the ACLU, which will recieve the video as soon as it’s taken.

The app, which is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, also provides users with information about what their rights are, particularly when being stopped or questioned by law enforcement officials. Many people, for example, don’t know that they have the right to film the police.

“The concerns over police practices, including racial profiling and excessive use of force, are very real for communities across the state,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of ACLU SoCal in the press release. “This app will help serve as a check on abuse – whether by police officers, sheriff’s deputies, border patrol, or other officials – allowing ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement.”

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The Mobile Justice App Records and Reports Police Encounters