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Missouri ACLU introduces police accountability smartphone app

By Brett Wilkins     Nov 7, 2014 in Technology
Saint Louis - The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has launched a new smartphone app meant to empower people to record encounters with law enforcement officers in which civil rights violations may be occurring.
The Android app, called the ACLU of Missouri Mobile Justice app, can be downloaded for free via a link on the ACLU of Missouri's website, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. It has three main functions, as well as 'Know Your Rights' information:
Record: Allows individuals to capture exchanges between themselves or others and law enforcement officers. The recorded footage is sent directly to the ACLU for review.
Witness: Send out an alert when a person is stopped by police so that concerned individuals can locate and document the stop.
Report: Enables users to file an incident report with the ACLU for review.
The ACLU of Missouri hopes the Mobile Justice app will improve police behavior by increasing accountability. The app's launch comes in the wake of the deadly shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
“Since Michael Brown was fatally shot in August, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of complaints from people who are routinely stopped, searched, humiliated and bullied into compliance by law enforcement officers,” said ACLU of Misssouri executive director Jeffrey Mittman. “This app will empower Missourians who have traditionally felt powerless, regardless of whether they live in Ferguson, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, or in rural Missouri.”
“In a situation where it's just an officers word against an individual who has no proof no documentation to provide an attorney they are left without power to hold police accountable," Mittman said at a press conference introducing the app.
In a statement reacting to the app's launch, St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman said his department “agrees with the ACLU that everyone should know what their rights are when interacting with police, and this app is another way for them to do so.”
The ACLU Mobile Justice app won't be limited to just Missouri. The ACLU branches in Mississippi, Oregon and Nebraska also unveiled the app on Thursday.
The app was funded by a grant from the national ACLU, and was developed by Quadrant 2, maker of the New York Civil Liberties Union's Stop and Frisk Watch anti-racial profiling tool. That app is credited with contributing to the decline in racially-motivated street stops by NYPD officers.
“Since the NYCLU released its app 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,” said ACLU of Missouri advocacy and policy director Sarah Rossi. “These numbers tell us that this type of app is sorely needed and can positively impact our communities.”
While only an Android version of the Mobile Justice app is currently available, ACLU of Missouri said an iPhone version will be released at an unspecified "later date."
More about mobile justice, Mobile apps, aclu of missouri, police accountablity, Smartphones
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