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New Jersey ACLU app gives new meaning to 'police tape'

July 06, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has released an Android app it says you can use to record your interactions with police officers in the state. Recording officers is illegal in some states.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has released an Android… (ACLU of New Jersey )

If you've ever been in a did-that-really-just-happen scenario, you might have wished you had a recorder running -- particularly when it comes to run-ins with the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey just released an app that allows Android phone users to record and store their interactions with police to "hold police accountable." The app, cleverly called "Police Tape," also includes legal information about citizens' rights during encounters with law enforcement.

What sets this apart from being just a video camera with a send button is that you can also record in "stealth mode." The app disappears from the screen once the recording starts, "to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording," according to the ACLU of New Jersey site.

Users can send the recording to the organization through the app for backup storage and analysis of possible civil liberties violations.

When you download Police Tape, it clearly states that it is designed for use in New Jersey, where it is legal to record police. It is important to note that, though there is no federal law preventing recording police in public, some states have different statutes covering such activity.

In California you are allowed to record officers in their official duty as long as you're in public and don't interfere with their duties.

The terms also warn you that you shouldn't submit the video if it's not something you want to have publicly posted -- and that you might want to consult a lawyer before submitting anyway, just in case.

Earlier, the New York American Civil Liberties Union released its Stop and Frisk Watch application for Android. IPhone users will get theirs in August. The New York ACLU promotes that app as a way for bystanders and designated event observers to record incidents.

That's probably a better idea than whipping out your phone when a cop asks for your license, particularly if you are in an emotionally charged or intense setting. That's probably not going to be received well.

"I hope that if a police officer is attempting to stop an individual on the street, that person is not suddenly trying to pull a phone from his pocket in an attempt to film a police encounter," president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police James Stewart told NJ.com.

Common sense doesn't have to come in an app, by the way.

The New Jersey ACLU plans to release an audio-only iPhone version in August.

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