ACLU of Michigan Launches Free Mobile App to Record and Report Police
(ACLU of Michigan Press Release, June 5, 2015)
Putting a high-tech twist on its long-time role as a government-accountability watchdog, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today announced the launch of Mobile Justice MI, a free downloadable mobile-device application that allows users to record and quickly report police misconduct.
“It’s every citizen’s right to film the police, and we believe that accountability is essential to building trust between communities and law enforcement and to creating confidence that the criminal justice system is fair,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “With this app, we empower citizens to know their rights and to document life-threatening interactions.”
Released amid mounting statewide concern about law-enforcement abuse following several high-profile beatings and killings by local officers and federal agents, Mobile Justice MI offers three user functions—“record,” “witness” and “report”—designed to empower citizens faced with suspicious police activity:
- Record allows citizens to capture exchanges between police officers and themselves or other community members in audio and video files that are automatically sent to the ACLU of Michigan.
- Witness sends out an alert when someone is stopped by police so that community members can move toward the location and document the interaction.
- Report gives the app user the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU of Michigan for review.
The application, which is available in iOS and Android versions and can be downloaded through the ACLU of Michigan website, also contains a “Know Your Rights” section that gives an overview of what rights citizens can exercise when stopped by police officers.
In addition, Mobile Justice MI will allow users to connect to ACLU content such as videos, audio podcasts, reports, websites and calls to action. Spanish- and Arabic-language translations also are available.
The app arrives a little more than a month after Terrance Kellom, a 20-year-old Detroit man, was gunned down by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent working with a multi-jurisdictional fugitive task force assigned to arrest Kellom. Authorities said Kellom was wielding a hammer when he was shot 10 times and killed, but his father has insisted throughout that his son was unarmed and not resisting.
Michigan also has endured in recent years the controversial police slayings of Milton Hall, a Saginaw man killed by a firing squad of police officers; Aura Rosser, an Ann Arbor woman tasered by one officer and shot with a bullet fired by another; and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7-year-old girl shot in the head by a SWAT officer during a raid on her home.
More recently, a black motorist, Floyd Dent, had criminal charges against him dropped after video surfaced showing police brutalizing him during a routine traffic stop in Inkster.
A grant from the National ACLU funded the development of the Mobile Justice app by Quadrant 2 – the same developer that created the Stop and Frisk Watch app for the New York Civil Liberties Union to address racial profiling.
Quadrant 2 has also released Mobile Justice applications for ACLU affiliates in Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon and other states and is working with other ACLU affiliates across the country to develop more.
When interacting with law enforcement, exercise caution when attempting to use the app to document your exchange. Your safety depends on your ability to clearly communicate your actions and to remain calm.
- Announce that you are reaching for your phone.
- Announce that you are attempting to access the app to record the exchange.
- If the officer forbids or prevents you from doing so, do not argue or resist. Follow the officer’s instructions. If your rights have been violated, your attorney will argue your case later.
- If the officer attempts to touch your screen in an effort to destroy the evidence you’ve captured, don’t worry. The moment the recording is stopped it will automatically be sent to the ACLU of Michigan.
Download Mobile Justice MI here.