The California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the latest to provide citizens with the organization's app, Mobile Justice, for recording police activity.
The software automatically sends the video file to the ACLU when the recording ends so that it is not confiscated or tampered with once the recording is done.
The app is the latest tool that the civil rights organization is providing citizens across the country. The ACLU of Oregon is also offering the app; the New York chapter debuted its own in 2012.
"We want to multiply the number of cameras that can be trained on police officers at any time," stated Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. "They need to know that anything they do could be seen by the entire world."
The goal of the app, according to the ACLU, is to empower citizens to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions in light of several controversial incidents regarding police across the nation.
The app, claims the organization, lets citizens record and capture exchanges and serve as witnesses to police interactions. It offers a more concise and detailed account compared to traditional eyewitness reports and allows citizens to know their rights under state law when interacting with law enforcement.
The app also instructs users on how to interact with police; what they should reveal in video recording an incident; and the best approach in revealing that they are going to record an interaction.
The California edition of the app can also notify users when someone else using the same app is having an interaction with law enforcement.
The app itself is now, however, drawing controversy as some don't believe it's a viable approach to dealing with potential contentious interactions with the police. There may also be privacy issues at play for the police officers being recorded on video.
"Everyone wants to keep an eye on the police. But in these incidents, the police are interacting with an individual involved in the worst conduct of their lives," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. "The ACLU needs to consider their privacy rights."
The ACLU's move to provide citizens across the country with such a mobile tool comes on the heels of several incidents regarding police arrests and interaction that have spurred great debate given what some say is police brutality and extraordinary measures when dealing with alleged criminals. One of the most recent incidents took place in early April in South Carolina, where a police officer was video taped shooting Walter Scott as he ran from police.
The incident resulted in murder charges against the officer seen shooting him in the back.
In addition to California and Oregon, the ACLU has provided the apps in Mississippi and Missouri. The New York City ACLU chapter was the first to build such an app, and the ACLU chapter says it has received 40,000 video recordings in the past three years.