It has been almost 25 years, but the infamous video of ‘Rodney King being beaten up by L.A. police officers’ is still fresh in many memories. This year, a similar video captured through cellphone by a local man was uploaded to Facebook, it showed a fatal police shooting by L.A.P.D. the video went viral and attracted millions of viewers.
The recent impact of amateur videos has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union, to create an app that would increase the scrutiny of police conduct.
On Thursday, the ACLU of California introduced a free smartphone app that would enable users to send videos of questionable police activity straight to the organization, streamlined in such a way that recordings would reach ACLU even if the officers try to alter or remove it.
The app is available on both Android and iOS, but for now only for California residents.
According to a senior official of ACLU of Southern California, this app would revolutionize the process, as the conduct of the police could be seen by the entire world.
But the idea of a civil liberties organization accumulating evidence of potential police misconduct is raising questions among intellectuals and law & order experts. As it could seriously invade any individual’s privacy.
In response to such concerns, ACLU of Southern California has reportedly confirmed that “the organization wouldn’t publicize a video unless it shows a substantial issue that needs public attention”.
The most alarming footage (captured in South Carolina, on April 4) came out when a man recorded a police officer shooting Walter Scott multiple times as Scott ran away. The officer had initially reported that he (fatally) shot Scott in self-defense, as Scot had gone for the officer’s stun gun. But as soon as the video appeared, the officer was indicted for homicide.
It’s still doubtful that many people will use the “Mobile Justice CA” app as uploading such videos to YouTube, Facebook and social media can still attract faster response from the public. Users will have to open the app on their Android or Apple devices before filming.
When a user stops recording, the app automatically sends a copy to the ACLU’s server, while it keeps the video on the phone intact. Simultaneously, a text report will pop up, interacting with the user -in writing- about the recorded incident. The app will give choice to the user to remain anonymous.
According to ACLU, the person who films it will have the right to the video, but under the app’s user terms, the organization will be able to distribute the footage for nonprofit use, including making the recording public.
Experts say: the ACLU could be subpoenaed for the footage, not only by police and prosecutors but also by attorneys representing people who were filmed.
Other ACLU chapters declined the use of similar apps due to limited use being reported. The highest numbers came from Missouri (about 570 recordings from about 2,500 Android users) but none of it had any commendable effect.
A similar app was developed for New York City’s chapter (in 2012) mainly due to the NYPD’s scandalous “stop-and-frisk” strategy. That app has delivered an estimated 40,000 recordings since then.
But according to the official report, many videos were of people trying to test the app. There have been other recordings, with various troublesome behaviors, such as officers using foul language or stopping people from recording.
Don “Jeff” Steck, president of the union that represents L.A. County deputy sheriffs, intimated about the duality of the videos nature: “It doesn’t show you the truth,” he said. “It shows you a piece of the truth.”
Patrisse Cullors, a director at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said, “the ACLU’s app represents just how important video has become since Holliday captured those grainy images nearly 25 years ago. Now, the proliferation of smartphones gives even more people the ability to hold police accountable.”
So record police activity and put it in front of public.