A new app for Android smartphones has come out that will allow you to secretly record your encounter with police, and it will send the recording to the ACLU, ensuring police do not tamper or delete the recording. The app is called Police Tape, and is available for download in the Google Play market for Android phones, it is made by the ACLU of New Jersey, and an iPhone version is coming soon.
The app will allow you to start recording audio or video, and the screen will go dark so the officer does not know he is being recorded. Users have the ability to send the file real-time to the ACLU if they feel the officer may tamper with the phone and discover the recording and delete it.
Courts have ruled that police can search your phone in some situations, but can not edit, modify or delete anything. The recording should be sufficient later to determine if the officer had the right to search your phone.
Many of us have been unwittingly violated by the police when we are stopped, usually because most people do not know their rights. While the vast majority of police officers are good, and do their jobs professionally, and with a high degree of integrity, there are always a few disgruntled bad cops, and they can make your day really bad, and in a really bad way.
During the recent fourth of July holiday, I watched a line of cars make a right hand turn at an intersection in Altamonte Springs that apparently was not allowed. From my point of view, there were small cones laid out on the road, but in a maze of lanes and abnormal traffic patterns for the event, it can be hard for anyone to quickly understand what they are suppose to do.
Sadly, the last vehicle in the line caught the ire of a police officer, who proceeded to yell and scream and berate the driver as if she were an idiot out to plow over as many firework stands as possible. She did not appear to have replied or commented and tried to follow the officers demanding directions to pull into a gas station, but it was not at all clear to the driver or me as a bystander what the officer wanted. Though I'm sure it was clear to the officer.
After repositioning the cones at the northeast corner of Altamonte Dr and Douglas Ave, he walked over to the car and proceeding to continue the ass chewing to the driver, a woman about 45 years old with 2 kids in the back seat.
Was this really necessary, was it professional? No, it certainly was not necessary, it is almost never imperative that an officer yell loudly at someone who is complying to his/her directions. It most certainly was not professional either, the driver was not verbally combative, complied to directions as best she could understand them, and made what was a relatively harmless civil infraction at most, which certainly does not warrant the treatment she endured.
Here's where the new app comes into play. Making a complaint to most any department about this event would go nowhere, the department backing its officer, and the officer under-exaggerating his actions without outright lying, either because he honestly believes he was not as outrageous as he was, or he knows he was a bit out of line and does not want to admit it (he's human, who wants to admit their shortcomings). But had the app been recording, the department would have been forced with hear a neutral version to which they would have had to give the officer some type of warning.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
If you're driving: If you are stopped while driving, and the officer asks for your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance, give it to them with out a hassle. You do not have to answer any questions, despite what some may tell you, you have the right to remain silent, and your silence can not be used against you as an assumption of guilt. Be polite, and do not argue, if you think the officer is wrong, argue it in court, not at the scene.
Out In Public: If an officer stops you, do not run. Don't argue or swear or threaten the officer or anyone else, and do not touch the officer. If the officer wants to search you, he must have probable cause. But know that you DO NOT have to consent to the search, and be sure to say you do not consent, this can help you later in court. If you speak, speak very carefully. It is often best to not answer any questions, because anything you say can and is often used against you, even if you think what you're about to say is truth and harmless. Invoke your right to silence, even if the officer tries to pressure you with statements like they will help you, and it will help you later, or they will go easy on you. Again your silence can not be used against you under the constitution, and can not be construed to be a statement of guilt.
Keep your hands where the officer can see them. Don't resist, even if you think you're innocent. Don't make statements about the incident for which the officer has stopped you.
Give you real name, and identification if you have it on you. Failure to do this can be a criminal offense in some states.
Ask if you are under arrest, if you are, you have the right to know why and to contact an attorney or bail bondsman or family once you are at the jail.
Ask, "am I free to leave". If they say no, you have been detained, in other words, arrested. Even if they later let you go, by the officer detaining you, that can be a violation in some cases, and does affect your constitutional rights to a speedy trial.
Don't speak, what you answer can give them the probable cause they need to search you and arrest you, even if you have not done anything wrong.
Remember the officers badge number and patrol car number.
If you feel your rights have been violated, you can contact your attorney or your local ACLU. If you are in New Jersey, go to www.aclu-nj.org/profiling
[portions of this article are excerpts from the ACLU, including the sections about your rights]
What do you think about this app, is it necessary? Comment below.