ACLU Hopes to Develop App to Record Police Encounters

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LITTLE ROCK, AR – Taking videos on your cell phone is nothing new. But having them automatically sent to an online repository where they can be analyzed by lawyers is something advocates believe can help create better relationships between police and the community. 

This video from 2011 shows a man being punched in the face by a an off duty police officer working security at a Little Rock restaurant.

Charges against the man taking punches were dropped after the video surfaced, and the case is now the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit.

“We have known that this is a problem for a long time,” says Rita Sklar, Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas.

The concerns have been thrust into the national discourse by more instances of alleged police brutality caught on video. And new technology is making that easier.

The ACLU’s been helping to develop some of the many programs allowing people to record the actions of law enforcement.

With Cop Watch, people can record their interactions with police through a smart phone app. Those interactions are then automatically uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.

“It certainly would prevent the destruction of evidence if someone were to take the equipment from them,” says Sklar.

“Every citizen has the right to record anything that they see,” says Little Rock Police Lt. Sidney Allen.

Allen says so long as people don’t interfere with police work or resist arrest they are within their rights to document actions of law enforcement. And he says it’s something that often benefits them.

“We’ve had more officers proven that they’ve done the right thing by video recording than have been proven to do the wrong thing,” says Allen.

Both the Little Rock Police Department and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office say they are considering new policies to begin putting body cameras on officers.

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