The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) releases “Police Tape” smartphone app.
“Police Tape” is an android smart phone app that allows people to securely record and store their interactions with police. The app, when activated, functions in “stealth mode” so that the Police Officer does not know you are video taping them using the Police Tape app. Legal information about citizens’ rights when interacting with the police is also a part of the Police Tape app
ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said,
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 Police Tape app, currently only available in New Jersey and only on the android platform, was developed by OpenWatch. The app records video and audio discreetly. It operates in a stealth mode by disappearing from the screen once the recording begins to prevent any attempt by police to prevent the device from recording.
A copy of the police encounter is maintained on the phone itself and users can elect to send it to the ACLU-NJ for backup storage and analysis of possible civil liberties violations.
According to the ACLU-NJ website, a version of the Police Tape app is awaiting approval from Apple and will be available later this summer in the App Store to audio record encounters with police.
There are currently other versions of the Police Tape app available directly on the OpenWatch website that work on both the iPhone and android platforms respectively. Their premise is very similar – you can secretly record your encounters with police and then upload the audio directly to OpenWatch.
According to OpenWatch, “Police Tape is a special version of OpenWatch which we produced for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. It contains all of the standard OpenWatch features, as well as some ACLU-produced information about citizens’ rights.”
The applications available directly on the OpenWatch applications section of their website are, Cop Recorder for the iPhone which can record audio only, Cop recorder 2 for the Android platform which can agaionly record audio. and the Open Watch recorder for android that can record both audio and video.
The availability of these types of applications give us a lot to think about.
Will these applications truly protect citizens? They do have to be activated first. With so many states adopting laws making cell phone use while driving illegal, is it practical that someone will be able to easily start recording before being stopped by the police?
Will police officers change their behavior or will the “bad” ones simply take a closer look at smart phones when stopping someone and end the recording? The app for the iPhone, for example, does have a small indicator that is visible so it entirely possibly for a police officer to know he is being recorded.
What about the various laws against audio recording?
Since widespread smart phone and social media usage has taken our country to new heights, it has also stripped away many areas that were once considered “private”. As our amazing technological advances continue, there are many legal statues that will be most certainly be challenged.