Citizens, citizen journalists and activists have run afoul of the police before, when recording police activities. This is despite the fact that police have all manner of recording equipment of their own, and don’t hesitate to use it. The ACLU of New Jersey has come down on the side of the public, with a new app that helps the public surreptitiously record the authorities.
The app is currently only available on Android, but will be coming to iOS soon, according to the report, although theiPhone version will only have an audio recording option. It is, of course, unclear why this app was developed by a state branch rather than the national organization, but at this point, who cares? We love the idea.
The app is called “ACLU-NJ Police Tape” or just “Police Tape.” It works as follows:
Video recording: when a user begins video recording, the screen goes black, as though it were off. On the other hand, since you have to aim the smartphone to take video, we’re not sure just how “stealthy” this is.
Audio recording: The app automatically minimizes and disappears from the foreground, but continues to record.
There is also a section of the app devoted to a tutorial on knowing your rights as a citizen.
Once video or audio has been recording, an end user can upload the resulting media to the ACLU’s own servers. Included in the fields for the upload are a title, public description, private description, and an email address field so the ACLU-NJ can contact you.
It’s unclear what will happen if an end user from outside NJ submits a file; will the ACLU-NJ contact a California user, for example?
Chris Tyminski, longtime president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 183, which represents Essex County, NJ sheriff’s officers, said,
“Guys are basically told, conduct yourself as if you’re always being recorded, that’s the safest way,” adding that it’s unfair when organizations such as the ACLU “judge a life or death split second decision that a cop makes, when they have days and days and roundtables to discuss what a cop should have done in those three seconds.”
That said, Tyminski stated that “We [police] have nothing to hide.” Those who have seen their videos deleted, or who have been arrested for recording something, even if theywere standing in their front yard, may disagree.