In N.J., ACLU offers app to record police interactions

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is offering a free smartphone application that allows residents to record and store their interactions with police.

 

ACLU policy counsel Alexander Shalom says most police officers behave properly, but the new app, called “Police Tape,” can record discreetly — the phone’s screen turns black while working — to help protect the public from officers who don’t.

Shalom says citizens are reluctant to report police misconduct because they don’t think they will be believed.

“Who, after all, would believe a citizen, particularly a citizen with a criminal record, when a police officer gives a varying account of what happened,” Shalom said Tuesday. “Here you have the neutral third party, the videotape, to break the tie, to say this is what really happened.”

Police officials don’t believe it’s a big deal. New Jersey Chiefs of Police Association executive director Mitchell Sklar says most police respect people’s rights.

“The reality of the modern world is wherever you go almost everyone has a camera and video device already on them on their phone,” Sklar said. “So everyone should act, whether you’re police or not, as if you’re being recorded because you probably are.”

The app is available now for Android smartphones on the ACLU-NJ website. An iPhone version is in the works.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.