An ACLU App for your smartphone promises to change the very nature of police-citizen interaction. Reported today by the L.A. Times, the ACLU of California has released the app this morning. Called Mobile Justice CA, the ACLU app allows a citizen to send recordings directly to the ACLU, ensuring that video of potential police misconduct is preserved, even if their cellphone is tampered with or destroyed. This follows on the heels Monday of the Missouri Chapter launching its version of the ACLU App. Cell phone video has become the center of a national debate following the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina by a police officer now charged with murder. A citizen bystander recorded the shooting on his cell phone camera and came forward with it after the officer lied about the encounter. Most commentators believe that without the video, the officer’s fabricated account would have been believed and he would have gotten away with murder. Peter Bibring, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU Southern California Chapter, said work began on the app before the recent controversy. “As we’ve seen in headlines over the previous few months, recordings by members of the public is a crucial check on police abuse,” Bibring said. “We’ve seen a number of examples of high-profile incidents of abuse and unlawful shootings or killings that never would have come
DUI video recordings during arrests have been mandatory in South Carolina since 1998. Every DUI arrest must be recorded from start to finish–including any breath test the motorist agrees to take. Apparently the law is hindering prosecution efforts, because two bills currently pending in the South Carolina legislature aim to lessen the importance of the video recordings. In typical prosecutor fashion, Barry Barnette, the chief prosecutor for Spartanburg and Cherokee counties, says far too many cases are thrown out because the DUI video recording is “not perfect.” (Read: the DUI video recording has so many problems that it cannot be used to validate the arrest.) Problems–which Barnette refers to as “technicalities,” can range from malfunctioning audio to the suspect temporarily stumbling out of view. (Read: the officer positioned the motorist out of audio range or view of the camera.) The proposal before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday specifies that a case can’t be tossed simply because video equipment fails to capture field sobriety tests. Barnette prefers a House version, which ties automatic dismissal to a recording being intentionally damaged or missing. Not surprisingly, appearing in favor of weakening the law were members of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, prosecutors and victim’s advocates.