Police Abuse

Recording Police Misconduct Is Just the Beginning

Police monitoring apps are getting better and better at keeping an eye on officialdom. But some now aspire to reduce the need for police at all.

|

In a world in which police don't just bristle at recordings of their activities, but also threaten curious bystanders and delete inconvenient evidence, a new generation of mobile apps is making it easier for people to work together to monitor the cops—and maybe even replace them.

The official line may be that it's all "standard procedure," but I'll take a wild guess that Fort Collins, Colorado, police are not entirely thrilled about a video of one of their "progressive and professional" officers slamming a woman to the ground during a dispute outside a bar. Nor are Chicago cops delighted to have to explain in court a video of one of their officers shooting a teen in the back. And North Miami police have their hands full with a hard-to-fathom recording of a cop shooting the unarmed caretaker of an autistic man.

Such recordings are sufficiently awkward that police often refuse to use officially issued recording equipment to capture their interactions with the public—Los Angeles officers are habitually forgetful when it comes to using the cameras that are strapped to their bodies. Denver has had a similar problem, along with the sheriff's department in Alameda County, California, and agencies elsewhere.

And when citizens record them, police have a bad habit of illegally ordering them to stop, and even seizing devices and deleting inconvenient evidence.

There's not much the average person can do about cops who disable or damage cameras they've been issued. But private recordings are increasingly ubiquitous, and a bit more resistant to policy or police action.

The first step in recording official conduct is being on the scene. To that end, the Citizen app, available both at the App Store and Google Play, offers New York City residents "real-time alerts of crimes and other incidents near to your location." Those incidents can be livestreamed through the app, too, and "up to 25 streams per incident are supported." Citizen is actually a rebranding of Vigilante, a provocative name that got the app booted by Apple last year. The new marketing verbiage now emphasizes safety and community, rather than personal risk-taking.

But not everybody lives in New York City. That's where location-independent software, such as Cell 411, comes in. "Cell 411 is ideal for use by activists, neighborhood watches, students, friends and other groups of people willing to organize themselves independently in order to manage and respond to emergencies." Among those emergencies, creator Virgil Vaduva makes clear, are immigration raids and other encounters with law enforcement. He developed the app after being arrested during a protest and realizing he had no quick and easy way of summoning help. Users of the app can organize into networks to share messages, calls for assistance, video, and GPS coordinates. Cell 411 is available at both the App Store and Google Play.

Police have already made it clear they don't like the app, with a PoliceOne reviewer claiming it "could prove deadly for civilians and law enforcement."

So, now you're at the scene because of your own curiosity or in response to a call for assistance by a friend or family member. You can record video with your phone, but what's the best way to distribute that footage before it suffers a mysterious erasure or the device it's on has a close encounter with a heavy object?

The various ACLU affiliates are probably your best bet here. The Texas chapter recently rolled out ACLU Blue, an Apple and Android app that lets users record encounters with the police and share the video with the civil liberties group and with the app's online community. Among other features, the app lets users lock their screens so that even if the device is snatched by the cops, recordings can't be stopped or deleted.

ACLU Blue is essentially a more flexible and social media-friendly version of Mobile Justice, the app that ACLU chapters around the country have offered for several years for recording and sharing video of police misconduct with the organization's lawyers. States from Arizona to Virginia offer implementations of that software, which also automatically transmits recordings to put them beyond the reach of camera-shy law enforcers.

Some apps aim to reduce police misconduct by bypassing police entirely. Vaduva's ambition with Cell 411 is not just to empower people to resist the authorities, but to reduce the whole need for police by making it easier for networks to address emergencies as they arise "without appealing to the violence of the State."

"Cell 411 has become almost an overnight sensation in South Africa, where thousands of users use it daily to keep each other safe," he told Cointelegraph. "Farmers in SA have also contacted me about how the app is helping them organize themselves into self-policing communities due to the lack of police protection and corruption."

Cell 411 even supports fully decentralized (and unlicensed) ride-sharing!

More ambitious, because of the level of commitment required, are apps like Concrn, which promise "compassionate crisis response—by peers, for peers." Pointing to the high incidence of violence when police are relied on to deal with homeless people, drunks, and the mentally ill, the app's creators urge users to "to report your needs to trained responders who use compassion, communication, and non-violent conflict resolution." Concrn is most active now in San Francisco, relying on trained volunteers. That's an approach that, not surprisingly, has won less than total support from the powers-that-be, with Tenderloin Station Police Captain Teresa Ewins complaining, "I don't think it's good for the community to not call the police during crisis situations."

Would she be prefer that volunteers just follow her officers and recorded their conduct?

Well, you can't make everybody happy. But you can give them better tools for minimizing official misconduct, and for addressing problems on their own without having to involve cops at all.

Advertisement

NEXT: Genetic Testing Might Not Cure Everything That Ails America. So What?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Police misconduct, especially against non-whites, has long been a serious problem in our society, as a whole, and it’s by no means a new thing. What is new, however, is the intensity of the behavior and the fact that there’s so much new technology out there that’s ripe for the misuse and abuse of. Police conduct needs to be monitored, but the best beginning step forward would be to require all cities, towns and villages throughout the United States to create Civilian Review Boards, and/or for police departments in all cities, towns and villages here in the United States to have their respective police departments staffed by at least one or two Civilian Overseers, so that cops who do abuse their power can be brought to justice as necessary, and so that police departments can be held accountable, as they should be.

    1. The newly-elected mayor can’t even fire the appointed police chief where I live because of civilian service state laws. The cops around here retire after 20 years of working and they’re given full pensions for life at whatever their highest gross salary was during the last three years of their employment. The cops will work overtime the year they retire and bank $130,000 a year in pension payouts for life. And this is dirt poor Louisiana we’re talking about where costs of living are depressed. Authoritarians are to blame for this shit.

      1. Authoritarian Progressives

        1. The ACLU offers its free “Mobile Justice” app, on iOS or Android, that saves a video on one of their servers, simultaneous with its recording. So, even if a phone’s confiscated or destroyed, the video’s still available.

    2. When video evidence has been weaponized against police, you can be sure they’re going to fire back with everything they have. This includes rhetoric, obvious concern for everyone’s safety, and baton swings. Lots of baton swings.

      Make no mistake, while misconduct isn’t new, it is escalating. Us-against-them mentality seldom leads to cooler heads and self-reflection. It leads to a culture of brotherhood-in-arms. It leads to breaking your enemy by any means available.

      1. Alcohol Prohibition caused an us vs them mentality.

        I wonder if something similar is going on now.

      2. Alcohol Prohibition caused an us vs them mentality in police.

        I wonder if something similar is going on.

    3. Civilian review boards are typically designed to be toothless platitudes with no budget or staff for investigation, and no power to subpoena evidence or authority to enforce their findings.

      You can’t count on official institutions to police themselves. What you need is an army of people with camera phones and media coverage to embarrass prosecutors into charging bad cops as the criminals they are.

      1. Perhaps then we can create a civilian review civilian review board.

    4. Police misconduct, especially against non-whites, has long been a serious problem in our society,

      Police misconduct against whites is merely a minor problem.

  2. But private recordings are increasingly ubiquitous, and a bit more resistant to policy or police action.

    Stream to a cloud backup, your visual record of events may be safe, but your phone and teeth likely won’t be. In the gamble on whether or not to overreact to a citizen with a camera, the odds are still in law enforcement’s favor.

  3. https://www.wevideo.com/view/893523451

    A little police video from an incident I was involved it a few weeks ago.

    1. Fucking pigs. That shit really makes me mad. How long did that take in real time?

      The notion that acting like you aren’t happy to be pulled over by the cops is suspicious is just idiotic. No one likes getting pulled over and people are rightly nervous if they are because shit like this (or much worse) can happen for no good reason.

      1. The whole thing was about 45 minutes. What you don’t see in the video is me getting more and more pissed and calling the dog handler a lying son of bitch for saying that his dog smells drugs in my car.

        1. While it might not be the wisest move for your personal well being, I feel I should commend you for not just meekly standing there.

          1. To the detriment of my well being:

            I compiled that video last night and have spent all morning posting it to as much social media as I can. I have to drive right past that police station on my way to work.

            1. I have to drive right past that police station on my way to work.

              You might want to find an alternate route to work because I can fucking guarantee you that pig and all his piggy friends are gonna be looking for any excuse to fuck with you now.

    2. Am I clear in thinking the dog, in no way, pointed on anything? Is this a routine thing where the dog is literally there to do a rain dance to unlock your car doors or is this a particularly egregious case where the dog tells them jack shit and they just search the car anyway?

      1. You obviously just don’t have the subtle observational powers of a highly trained police officer.

        1. Of course. Silly me, all this time I’ve been using well-trained dogs by employing their observational powers and training them to communicate to me via distinct behavioral cues.

          If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go move all my microscopes to my observatory and all my telescopes to the microscopy lab.

        2. I’m a highly trained dog trainer and all I saw was a Mal being a Mal. I saw no real evidence of any training in that dog. And to suggest that he somehow smelled drugs in a wallet in the car is ridiculous.

      2. As best I can tell from a few weeks research, As long as the cop says the dog “alerted” the dog is basically a leashed search warrant that is deployable at will.

        1. the dog is basically a leashed search warrant that is deployable at will

          There’ve been enough stories and an in-depth article or two about this here – leading me to believe the whole use of “K9s” is a crock of shit, the “evidence” should be laughed out of court, etc. etc.

          1. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

            I guess the dog has sworn an oath or made an affirmation and has particularly described the place to be searched, and the things to be seized. I’d like to be able to cross examine the dog in court and ask it exactly what it’s opinion of the search is.

            1. I guess the dog has sworn an oath or made an affirmation and has particularly described the place to be searched, and the things to be seized.

              Well they have funeral processions with full honors for any K9 that was killed while on duty and otherwise treat them as equal to a human cop, so yeah, that seems to be the interpretation the courts have reached. I’ve even heard of people being charged with “assaulting a police officer” for trying to fight off a police dog. Apparently you’re supposed to just let the dog maul the shit out of you, just like when a human cop starts swinging his baton at your head, you’re not allowed to try to protect yourself in any way.

              1. Well they have funeral processions with full honors for any K9 that was killed while on duty and otherwise treat them as equal to a human cop

                I certainly value the dog a lot more.

                1. Officer: Play dead!

                  *Dog lays still on it’s side.*

                  Officer: Speak!

                  K-9: ‘It shoulda been you!’

            2. I’d like to be able to cross examine the dog in court and ask it exactly what it’s opinion of the search is.

              “Look, for a couple pieces of bacon and a pat on the belly, i’ll swear to anything you want.”

              1. You should at least be able to introduce the dog’s training history and a record of its history of false positives. I suspect that if juries were told that Dog sniffed around 100 cars, alerted 90 time and drugs were found 15 times they might start to question whether the dogs are really that good.

                1. “…history of false positives.”

                  Do K-9 search results even get documented at all much less when false? Anyone?

                  Must be a nightmare to have a nervous condition if you’re white and a night terror if you’re anything other.

                  Officer: Sir, you appear nervous or I smell marijuana.

                  Motorist immediately states: That is patently false and an outright lie. Are you now trying to fabricate probable cause by making false statements into the record and false allegations against me, phucker. (“phucker” is optional and at your own discretion but should not be uttered without video and audio.)

          2. There’ve been enough stories and an in-depth article or two about this here – leading me to believe the whole use of “K9s” is a crock of shit, the “evidence” should be laughed out of court, etc. etc.

            I guess I was under a bit of a delusion that at least the dogs were well trained or disciplined; that they might be overtrained to alert or key on their trainer’s body language or mistrained such that they’d point on pretty much anything that didn’t look or smell like the inside of a police car, but at least there was a distinct and unmistakable alert or point. I’d be hard pressed to say that that dog was trained on anything other than obedience and even that’s a maybe.

        2. As best I can tell from a few weeks research, As long as the cop says the dog “alerted” the dog is basically a leashed search warrant that is deployable at will.

          F
          Y
          T
          W

      3. The fact that we entertain the legal inanity of a non-human being able to essentially testify as to probable cause is the stupidest thing ever.

        Court transcripts:
        DA: Officer Scooby (K-9 officer), do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
        K-9: “”Bark”
        DA: Great. On the night of June 6th, did you notify your human partner of the fact that the subject vehicle contained contraband?
        K-9:”Bark”
        DA: Excellent. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you can see by the testimony of the K-9 officer, the police had sufficient probable cause to violate the rights of your fellow and search his property. So you must convict the defendant of resisting arrest, because he refused to be detained based on the lawful testimony of the officer (dog). The fact that there was no contraband does not forgive the fact that this subject, excuse me I mean citizen, did not follow the lawful commands of his superiors, I mean civil servants.

      4. Is this a routine thing where the dog is literally there to do a rain dance to unlock your car doors…

        My understanding is that this is a routine thing that cops use anytime they want to gin up an excuse to search someone’s car, yes. And not being sufficiently subservient and respectful of their AUTHORITAY is one of the things that will make them decide to gin up such an excuse. They’re not even really expecting to find anything, they’re just trying to make your life a living a hell for as long as they can because fuck you, that’s why.

        1. When a cop threatens to hold you for a K-9 search say,
          “I do not consent to being detained for any additional time or other purposes. Am I free to go or are you going to continue to illegally terrorize, threaten, and falsely imprison me beyond the time that is needed to conclude this alleged transportation stop.”

          1. HELP-HELP-HELP, won’t someone please give me some good advice?!!? I have a most EXCELLENT tax-money-saving idea that I’d like to put in to the Departments of Our Heroic Protectors in Government Almighty all across the land, and I just don’t know WHERE to submit my brilliant money-saving idea; PLEASE help. Idea summary: REAL drug-sniffing dogs are expensive to train, feed, house, and transport. EFFIGY dogs (think sock-puppet-doggie on officer’s hand) would be FAR less expensive! Officer waves sock-puppet-effigy-dog slowly over car, says wuff-wuff-wuff quietly and softly, then reaches trunk of car, goes WOOF-WOOF-WOOF loudly and urgently, now the car can be searched! Problem solved, cost-effectively! Woo-Hoo!!! ? Now? HOW do we spread this most excellent idea? Please advise? This excellent idea brought to you by the Church of Scienfoology, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ ?

  4. Cartoon HD is a very popular app as you know. we can watch animated videos, movies on your smartphone.
    If you are a android user then you can easily download this app.
    You can also use this app if you are a iOS user. For more details check the process of download Cartoon HD for Windows

  5. Honest question – how much has footage of police brutality actually made a difference? Not very much that I can see.

    1. Those are all isolated incidents, don’t ya know. Bad apples and such. Besides, it’s just a lack of proper training on procedures.

    2. People do seem a bit more aware of it. I think BLM sort of fucked it up, though, by making it all about race and politics. So as usual, everyone has to pick a team. Which probably does mean that very little changes.

      1. BLM really fucked up a chance at police reform by making it all about race.

        1. It was completely inevitable, especially once leftist politicians latched on to it.

          1. Is there anything that identity politics CAN’T fuck up beyond all recognition?

            1. For equality police need to beat up and kill more white people”

        2. In those poor black neighborhoods, everything is about race. I’m not sure to what extent that is caused by decades of race hustlers and what is just the natural inclination for people to blame their situations on outside forces beyond their control.

      2. The thing is though, regardless of awareness, as long as we’re traing cops the same way we train soldiers occupying Fallujah, none of this gets any better.

        1. Soldiers in Fallujah are trained to have a lot more restraint when dealing with people who aren’t actively shooting at them. So cops are trained for all the violence and none of the restraint.

  6. Cell 411 has become almost an overnight sensation in South Africa, where thousands of users use it daily to keep each other safe

    That’s great, but in America, it’s going to have to be illegal to videotape potential criminal activity once it is found that there will be disparate impact, due to institutionalized racism. A quota system might be necessary.

  7. Saw a show last night where this cop in Oklahoma City was convicted for sexually assaulting 13 women. Evidence was iffy at best and he swears his innocence. Well, if you had a body camera on and running the whole time then you could prove that huh.

    1. “…he swears his innocence.” Yeah, and he swore an oath too. Professional liar. Getting 13 women to come forward is quite a trick if he is not guilty as hell. He’s like Bill Cosby without the millions to motivate.

  8. “I don’t think it’s good for the community to not call the police during crisis situations.” So says Officer Teresa Evans. Unfortunately many times involving the police makes things far worse. Many folks hold this belief and would never call the cops. I might be one of them.

  9. Recording Police Misconduct Is Just the Beginning.
    No recording or otherwise watching the police do nothing is just the beginning.
    Take the pay and look the other way is the new police mantra.
    Heard that since 2001.

  10. I just began eight weeks past and i have become four check for an entire of $4,15000…this is the best call I made in quite a while! “Much obliged to you for giving American express this unprecedented opportunity to make more cash from home. This further cash has adjusted my life in such a lot of courses in which, bestow you!”…….GOOD LUCK Click this snap
    this connection -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= http://www.net.pro70.com

  11. I just began eight weeks past and i have become four check for an entire of $4,15000…this is the best call I made in quite a while! “Much obliged to you for giving American express this unprecedented opportunity to make more cash from home. This further cash has adjusted my life in such a lot of courses in which, bestow you!”…….GOOD LUCK Click this snap
    this connection -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= http://www.net.pro70.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.