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Citizens now have a way to protect themselves when police misbehave

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is known for its aggressive efforts to monitor and correct police misconduct. The organization has filed numerous lawsuits against police departments and other law enforcement agencies for false arrests and other civil rights violations.

The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU has gone a step further, enlisting the help of citizens through a new smartphone app, called Police Tape. The app allows individuals who have been stopped by police to record the stops secretly and avoid having officers confiscate their phones. The recording is automatically transferred to a variety of civil rights organizations.

In some cases, citizens have been arrested after recording police officers in public places. In others, police have seized phones and deleted recordings.

The app allows people to record police encounters secretly by blanking out a device's screen and making a phone appear to be turned off. It is currently available for Android devices only, but will soon be available for iPhones. In addition to including the app, the download also includes a tutorial on citizens' rights.

The New York ACLU recently introduced a similar app called Stop and Frisk Watch. New York police have become notorious because of their approach to searching. The app allows citizens to record instances of possible individual constitutional rights violations.

The issue of using smartphones to record police behavior drew attention in Newark recently. A 16-year-old student recorded police helping someone in March of 2010. Officers removed the young woman from the bus and handcuffed her when she refused to stop filming. The New Jersey ACLU and Seton Hall Center for Social Justice have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the teenager, who was held in custody for three hours before being released to her mother.

Source:, "N.J.ACLU unveils 'stealth' app allowing citizens to secretly record police," by Eunice LKee, July 3, 2012

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