The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina released the free Mobile Justice app Tuesday that allows users to record encounters with public officials and law enforcement and report authorities’ abuse of power during these encounters and others.
“It’s frustrating that community members have to feel like they need this tool on them, but the reality is that police commit real acts of violence,” said Frank Knaack, executive director of the ACLU of S.C. “This is a tool that the community can use to hold police accountable for that violence.”
While any bystander can press the record button on their camera phone, police have opportunities to delete footage that may show them in a negative light when recorded by victims of police brutality, Knaack said. That’s why Mobile Justice does more.
When users press “record” the app directly streams the footage to the ACLU, rending police incapable of erasing any footage. And, users can set their account up to stream the footage to select friends and family as well. Finally, it also allows users to input additional information, such as location, names of those involved, officers’ badge numbers and more.
The Mobile Justice app came about after a number of incidents that looked very different when compared from the perspective of police to that of later-released footage, Knaack said.
“Michael Slager initially claimed he feared for his life, but when the video evidence came out and we saw what really happened, we learned there could be nothing further from the truth,” Knaack said.
While body cams worn by police have grown in use, partially due to legislation following the killing of Walter Scott, police choose when to turn their cameras on, according to a statement by the ACLU of S.C. Mobile Justice puts that power in the hands of the community, but even with that, Knaack said he knows this app alone won’t change the realities of police violence.
“One thing we are being really careful to note is that this app isn’t going to bring about justice,” he said. “It can’t reverse the police brutality that has already happened or will happen in the future, but it provides community members with a little bit more empowerment to assert their rights.”