The New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has developed a smartphone app that allows users to easily record what happens during a police stop without the officer knowing he or she is getting recorded.
The app is called “Police Tape” and was developed with the idea of letting the general public “police the police.”
Our only question is this: where the hell was this app a few months ago?!
We got pulled over in Brooklyn back in March by a portly NYPD officer for — as far as we can tell — absolutely no reason. When we asked the cop why he stopped us, he didn’t answer — just took our information, went back to his cruiser, and left us wondering for about five minutes.
When the officer returned with our information — and a ticket — we again asked “why did you stop me.” Avoiding eye contact, the officer handed us a ticket and said “you weren’t wearing your seat-belt” before stomping off.
That was about the same time we looked across our chest to make sure we weren’t crazy. Sure as shit, our seat-belt was on. Obviously, we were furious — but we’re not dumb enough to think we’re gonna win an argument with a cop. We’re currently fighting the ticket in court in what has become a “he said, cop said” situation that is not likely to end favorably for us.
If we had the ACLU’s app, our case probably would be slightly easier to prove.
According to the group, the app was (generously) developed by app developer OpenWatch and “records video and audio discreetly, disappearing from the screen once the recording begins to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording. In addition to keeping a copy on the phone itself, the user can choose to send it to the ACLU-NJ for backup storage and analysis of possible civil liberties violations.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, either — there are only three buttons: a “know your rights” button that tells users what their rights are in various situations where they might encounter a cop. The other two buttons are to discreetly record audio and video.
“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs says. “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 currently is available for Android operating software, but an Apple version is awaiting approval and should be available later on this summer.
For more info — and to download your own “Police Tape” app — visit the ACLU’s website here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2012