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The ACLU has answered the question of what to do in police encounters with the now-familiar, "There's an app for that."
The new Android app, called Police Tape, was put out by the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU and it has a lot of value for everyday citizens. It provides know-your-rights information for police interactions, including traffic and Terry stops, police at your home, and arrest.
The app also responds to another need: how to record an interaction with an officer if the person who is stopped suspects something is going wrong.
The trouble is that the way the app carries it out could be used illegally.
The app advertises itself as a discreet way to record police interactions according to Ars Technica. Once you click the button to record an interaction, the app disappears from the smart phone screen but is still recording.
In general, video recording in a public space requires at least notice to the person being recorded.
In some states, consent is also required although in most of those places on-duty police officers are considered exempt from the consent requirement. But in police interactions it's still necessary to make sure officers know they are being filmed.
The ACLU-NJ doesn't appear to encourage anyone to use the app illegally but it does say in its ad that the app can record without appearing to do so:
Legal concerns aside, the app does neatly sidestep the issue of police officers deleting or otherwise destroying recordings.
Once a video is made it's sent to ACLU-NJ for review and is stored on an external server so that it can't be permanently deleted.
The Police Tape app is only available for Android but the New Jersey ACLU is offering it for free. It's not available yet for the iPhone but according to their website, it should be coming soon.