ACLU’s Mobile Justice App Helps Witnesses Hold Bad Cops Accountable

Apr 20, 2021 at 7:09 pm
The ACLU’s Mobile Justice app exists to help witnesses hold bad cops accountable for their actions. - @digitaldefection / Flickr
The ACLU’s Mobile Justice app exists to help witnesses hold bad cops accountable for their actions.

All it takes is just one person filming an interaction with police to change the course of one case, or even history.

As we saw with the Derek Chauvin verdict, video evidence played a crucial role in getting legal justice for George Floyd — and all because Darnella Frazier, a teenager, stopped to record the incident.

Without the video evidence, chances are that most people would never even know the name George Floyd, much less how his murder spurred the next step in America’s long, slow civil rights evolution.

The ACLU’s Mobile Justice app exists to help witnesses document, report and hold bad cops accountable for their actions.

Here in the Show-Me State, a Missouri-specific version of this app gained popularity during the time of the Ferguson uprising after the fatal shooting of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

The app is now available nationwide and is downloadable for free for anyone who wants to document a police interaction or quickly check their rights when they’re in a questionable situation.

The Mobile Justice app has three main functions:
  • To record video and audio documentation of interactions with law enforcement
  • To report an incident directly to the ACLU
  • To keep users aware of their rights though an easily-to-navigate menu

Users simply download the app, enter some basic information like their state and email address and then give the app access to their camera and microphone.

Using the ACLU app is a more secure option than just filming directly on your phone for many reasons, but not the least of which is that the app sends the video to the ACLU so there is a backup copy in case, you know, your phone gets smashed during a protest or scuffle.

The app will also allow access to the video to your trusted “ally contacts.” You can share your live video with up to three trusted contacts, friends or family members. They’ll get a link via phone or email to your live video, where they “can flag any activity directly to the ACLU.”

So even if you’re too busy to alert the ACLU to a potential situation that might need legal intervention, your contact can do that for you. You can also add or edit your trusted contacts any time within the app settings.

In addition to documenting and contacting the ACLU about a specific incident, the app also contains a “Know Your Rights” component that informs users of their rights in many contexts. Sections include Voting Rights, Religious Freedom, Sex Discrimination, Prisoners’ Rights, Students’ Rights, Immigrants’ Rights, Protesters’ Rights, your rights if you’ve been stopped by the police and more.

"It's the next best thing to having a civil-rights attorney on speed dial," says Justin Hansford, a Saint Louis University School of Law assistant professor said in 2014. Hansford was arrested while serving as a legal observer at a Ferguson protest at the Walmart in Maplewood.

You can download the free Mobile Justice app at the Apple App Store or  Google Play.

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