New Jersey's American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a new app for smartphones that allows users to covertly record police actions, in order to avoid having devices confiscated and to allow possibly freedom-protecting footage to be preserved without interference. (Such as in the clip below that went viral, clearing the citizen involved in any wrongdoing, resulting in the assaulting officer's arrest and facilitating a court award for the cyclist who was attacked.)
The issue of police interfering with the recording of arrests and other conflicts with citizens has cropped up from time to time in recent years due to the ubiquity of smartphones -- in essence, more Americans than ever now constantly have what is essentially a voice recorder and video camera on their person at all times.
While this may allow for better documentation of bar crawls and baby's first steps, police officers have found themselves, in increasing numbers, to be caught out by footage that creates a negative impression of their actions, or worse, evidence to contraindicate their version of events that could be admissible in court.
The situation has prompted many Americans to be wrongly informed that recording police is illegal, although it is true that in some jurisdictions, the practice falls afoul of wiretapping laws. But the ACLU in New Jersey's new Police Tape app will allow citizens to record police without making that fact obvious.
Deborah Jacobs of the New Jersey ACLU says the app "provides an essential tool for police accountability," and the ACLU's policy counsel in Jersey, Alexander Shalom, explains:
"Police often videotape civilians and civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police... When people know they’re being watched, they tend to behave well."