New app by ACLU keeps police power in check

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Updated: 7/16/2012 9:18 pm
You name it, there is an app for it. This one just might be what keeps the police accountable, and you out of trouble.

The American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey unveiled an app called "Police Tape", which allows you to record the audio of any contact with police.

Not only does the screen go black when the app is in use, but the recording is automatically sent to the ACLU to be analyzed.

Now, the Texas ACLU has gotten interested. Spokeswoman Dotty Griffith said incidents around the country have brought this issue to surface.

"There is a pattern all over the country of police sometimes attempting to stop people from recording or confiscating cell phones when they realize that they are being recorded," Griffith said.
"In Houston this past week, there was a shooting by police, and one of the witnesses said that she was told by police that she could not video the scene."

Attorney Curtis Parrish said such incidents can fall into a legal grey area.
"If they are on a public street, if they are in a public place, they can video. As long as they are not impeding otherwise the officer and his duty," Parrish said. "But the question is,
does video taping a police officer impede him? And of course, I am sure the police officers and the police officers' unions will argue, well sure it does."

Lubbock Police Sergeant Jonathan Stewart sees the app as an important tool, but also warns that messing with your phone while talking to the police just might make matters worse.

"For example," Stewart said, "on a traffic stop, if an officer is trying to get a drivers license or insurance information or actually conduct the traffic stop, and the person is
fiddling with their phone instead of cooperating with the officer, then that certainly could lead to a problem."

Parrish said he thinks police and citizens should both benefit from video documentation.

"I would think if a police officer can use a recording device when they are making a stop, then I think the general rule is, so can the person who is being stopped," Parrish said.

"It is not uncommon for people out on the street to record us while we are performing our duties," Stewart said. "So it is not really going to be anything new if this were to be made useful in Texas."

And it is looking like that just might happen. Griffith said they hope to bring the app to Texas by September.
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