As bystanders increasingly start recording police interactions with the public using their ubiquitous smartphones, the police have responded by sometimes ordering them to stop (though courts have held that people have a right to record as long as they are not interfering with the police actions), confiscating the cameras and destroying the videos, or sometimes even destroying the cameras by smashing them on the ground.
The ACLU has now created an app that seeks to deal with that issue.
The ACLU of California on Thursday unveiled a free smartphone app that allows users to send video of questionable police activity directly to the organization, protecting the recordings even if officers confiscate or try to tamper with the phones.
“We want to multiply the number of cameras that can be trained on police officers at any time,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “They need to know that anything they do could be seen by the entire world.”
Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, said the organization wouldn’t publicize a video unless it showed a substantial issue that needed public attention.
“Obviously an interaction with a police officer isn’t someone’s brightest moment,” he said. “But when you weigh that against the 1st Amendment right to film police, the 1st Amendment wins out.”
The main concern that I have with widespread recording is that I hope it does not raise the bar for evidence of police misconduct too high and people don’t think that just because no video happened to be taken, we cannot prosecute for misconduct.