App to ensure (mobile) justice is served

The ACLU released a new app designed to hold police more accountable for the way they act.

Martha Pietruszewski

The best moments in life sometimes happen to be filmed. That moment when you started dancing and you thought nobody could see? It’s probably stored on the Cloud now.
Unfortunately, some of life’s bad moments also happen to be caught on camera. The video of a school police officer flipping over an African-American student and her desk happens to be one of those moments.
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has released a new app that’s designed to record police-citizen interactions. This is a step in the right direction for civil rights in Minnesota.
 
This app, called “Mobile Justice MN,” is necessary at a time when a lot of police are coming under scrutiny for their actions — notably, just a few days ago, police shot Jamar Clark, a man suspected of domestic assault.
 
The free app will hold police accountable. In an age when everything and anything is recorded and easily uploaded to social media, it’s easy to get caught doing the wrong thing. Perhaps if they know someone is potentially filming them, police won’t make any rash decisions.
 
In addition to filming, the app will also directly upload the video to the ACLU’s database in case the recorder’s phone is confiscated. After the video sends, you can file a report directly with the ACLU. These two features allow the process of filing a report to speed up and will help the ACLU serve up the justice that we need.
 
If the app permitted it, I believe the videos could also help police departments. For example, if police don’t use body cameras (and Minneapolis won’t until 2016), then the app’s videos could show police another perspective of crime scenes. 
 
However, one controversial feature of Mobile Justice MN is its ability to notify others when an event is taking place and being recorded. This feature is so that others can witness an event in case an injustice occurs. I think this feature is well-intended, but it also can pose some danger. If three users each notify three friends, they dramatically
increase a crowd’s size. This can cause public safety issues and may even lead more police to come to the scene to deal with the crowd instead of focusing on the situation at hand. It would create a riot when a riot isn’t needed.
 
Taking pictures of something is not a crime, especially if it is happening in a public place. However, the app allows users to view a copy of their rights so they’re informed just in case. I’m glad the ACLU included this feature. Even though people have the best intentions helping out at the crime scene, their actions could look like interference and cause problems later.
 
Unfortunately, this app derives from events involving police over the last few years. While I’m happy that this app encourages equal civil rights for all, I’m sad that we as a country seem to be taking a few steps backward in the civil rights movement.
 
However, I’m confident that instead of violent videos, we will eventually be able to show the rest of the world peaceful pictures.