ACLU Launches Police Watch App in Oregon

“Mobile Justice” app allows Oregonians to record video of police encounters, includes guide to rights
November 6, 2014 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon today announced the release of a smartphone application that will allow users to take video of police encounters and quickly upload the video to the ACLU. It can also send an alert when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby and provides helpful legal information about interacting with police.

“Police officers have a unique role and position within our society and they are given extraordinary powers,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Oregonians have the right to record video of police in public places as a check to those powers.”

Fidanque said that the app, known as “Mobile Justice,” is also being launched simultaneously by ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska.  He said it is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. 

Community activist Teressa Raiford thinks the launch of the app will help people hold police accountable.

“Often people won’t report police misconduct because they don’t think they will be believed,” said Raiford. “Taking video of a stop can make a huge difference – while it is happening and after.”

Mobile Justice is modeled on the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) successful "Stop and Frisk Watch" app. Since the NYCLU app was released in 2012 it has been downloaded more than 30,000 times and the New York Police Department’s use of street stops has declined by more than half.  

The Android app has three main functions plus Know Your Rights information. Record allows citizens to capture video the actions of police officers when interacting with other community members in video files (the Oregon app does not record audio) that are automatically sent to the ACLU of Oregon. Witness sends out an alert when another user is taking video of a police stop so that community members nearby can move toward the location and also document the interaction. Report gives the app user the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU of Oregon for review. Know Your Rights provides an overview of what rights protect individuals when they are stopped by law enforcement officers.

Fidanque said the ACLU affiliates began developing the app before the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this summer. 

“The events in Ferguson made the need for the app even more urgent,” said Fidanque. “Over-policing, racial profiling, and the excessive use of force are also a problem here in Oregon."

More ACLU affiliates plan to rollout similar apps soon. The app is free to download in English and in Spanish in the Google Play store. An iOS version will follow early next year.