ACLU Apps Preserve Police Videos

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 04, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Officer, anything you do will be recorded and can be used against you in the court of public opinion.

It all started with the video of Rodney King being beaten by police. In the years since then, almost every man, woman, and even child has come to have a camera on their phone with which to record the police's actions on the street. While police may not be happy about being recorded, it's your right to do so. Unsurprisingly, some people have reported police trying to delete videos from their phones or destroying the phones altogether.

But there might be a new way to protect your videos from police interference; use the ACLU's new apps.

Right to Record The Police

The police have no expectation of privacy in public places while doing their official duties. You have the right to record the police's actions in any public place.

However, this right is not absolute. You cannot interfere with police operations to record your video. If the police tell you to step back from a crime scene, you must do so. You also cannot trespass onto another person's property to record the police.

As long as you are in a public place, and not interfering with the police's actions, most courts have held that you have right to record the police.

Police Recording Apps

While police do not have the right to search your cell phone without a warrant or delete your videos, it does happen.

To remedy this, several ACLU chapters have created apps that protect citizen recorded police videos from tampering and destruction.

This week the California ACLU chapter introduced Mobile Justice CA. This app uploads user videos to the ACLU's secure server right after the recording is made. Even if police attempt to confiscate your phone or make you delete your video, the video will already be preserved by the ACLU.

Other ACLU chapters may have their own Mobile Justice app, so check with your local ACLU chapter's website to download the local app. CopWatch is a similar app by the Toronto-based activist group Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

Some critics of these apps argue that while the police may not have a right to privacy, the recordings may violate the privacy rights of the people interacting with the police. Peter Bibring, of the ACLU of Southern California, argues that the First Amendment right to film the police outweighs an individual's privacy concerns.

 If you think the police have improperly searched your phone or destroyed your video, talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.

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