ACLU police recording apps launched to help monitor law enforcement

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Amateur videographers have two new ACLU police recording apps to use, but should do so cautiously. Photo Credit: Alexisrael/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

The American Civil Liberties Union, among others, has noticed that some police officers are not happy about being filmed by citizens. To help some citizens with “watching the watchers,” there are two ACLU police recording apps that make it easier.

ACLU police recording apps help custodiet the custodes

Roman satirist Juvenal once wrote “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” meaning “who guards the guards?” or something like that, depending on how it’s translated. Granted, Juvenal meant that older, wealthy men shouldn’t post guards to keep their young, supply-proportioned “trophy” wives from committing adultery because said licentious strumpets would just shack up with the guards. However, the point remains salient.

In recent years, some citizens have taken to filming police officers with video cameras and smart phones. Sometimes they face severe retaliation; motorists and people at large have witnessed and received beatings and faced jail sentences for recording police. Two smartphone apps by the American Civil Liberties Union chapters aim to make it easier. The ACLU police recording apps, according to AutoBlog, are from the New Jersey and New York chapters.

Similar functions

Both apps work in similarly; the app records audio or video. While recording, the app interface disappears. Video and audio are hidden in the phone’s memory and users can set the app to upload footage to a secure ACLU server in whichever state the version is from. Both apps are free and currently only available for Android, though iPhone versions are forthcoming.

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Numerous cases in the news

A number of cases have arisen from motorists filming police during traffic stops and facing intimidation and arrest for filming, a famous example of which being Anthony Graber. Graber, according to ABC, was pulled over for speeding near Baltimore, Md., by a plainclothes state trooper in March, 2010. The trooper pulled his gun when he approached Graber’s stopped motorcycle on the shoulder, which Graber recorded on his helmet video camera and posted to YouTube.

Graber was arrested and charged with illegal wiretapping and faced 16 years in prison. The charges, however, according to the Baltimore Sun, were dropped, when the presiding judge ruled filming didn’t violate wiretap laws.

Illegal in only two states

According to a post on Gizmodo, filming police is illegal in Massaschusetts and Illinois. All other states either allow it or have exemptions to “expectation of privacy” laws which excludes anything that happens in public.

However, the post on Gizmodo cautions that not all police are aware of these laws or care about them in the heat of the moment. Anyone who films police officers, even legally, should be aware that repercussions are possible, up to and including being assaulted, arrested and having property confiscated or destroyed. Any legal victory will be after-the-fact of any arrest, assault or property destruction.

Sources

AutoBlog

ABC

Gizmodo

Baltimore Sun: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-09-27/news/bs-md-recorded-traffic-stop-20100927_1_police-officers-plitt-cell-phones

The American Civil Liberties Union, among others, has noticed that some police officers are not happy about being filmed by citizens. To help some citizens with “watching the watchers,” there are two ACLU police recording apps that make it easier.

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