NJ - Residents get an app that lets them keep a spy eye on the police
New Jersey cops watch out - Big Brother is watching.
The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has just launched a new cell phone app which allows state residents to discreetly record police stops.
It follows the introduction of a similar app by the New York wing of the ACLU last month and is being hailed as another weapon for civilians against abusive police behavior.
The free New Jersey app, called "Police Tape," has been developed by OpenWatch and can be downloaded at aclu-nj.org/app.
It is currently only available for Android smartphones but is expected to be rolled out to iPhones later this month.
"Police Tape" has three functions: video recording, audio recording and a tutorial for first-time users.
The app records video and audio but, unlike the typical applications that come with cell phones, "Police Tape" disappears from the screen once the recording begins “to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording,” according to the ACLU-NJ press release.
"Police Tape" even takes advantage of computing’s latest fad: the cloud. Recordings can be sent straight to the organization for backup storage and analysis.
The civil liberties group says the software is necessary because residents have been harassed or arrested for recording police in action and, on occasion, officers have had recordings deleted.
“Police often videotape civilians and civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police,” said Alexander Shalom, ACLU New Jersey’s policy counsel, told the Star-Ledger. “When people know they’re being watched, they tend to behave well.”
The New York app, called "Stop & Frisk Watch," is also free and enables users to report run-ins with police in real time.
It was developed in response to the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which critics say unfairly targets minorities.
The civil liberties group hopes the app will hold officers accountable. Police credit stop and frisk with helping to lower the murder rate and say it has led to more gun seizures.
The NYPD fears the app will tip criminals off to stop-and-frisk locations.
Recordings with "Stop & Frisk Watch" start with the tap of a button and filming can be stopped by shaking the phone.
Users are then prompted to answer a few brief questions about the images captured on camera and they can be automatically emailed to the NYCLU.