The New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has released an app that lets users secretly record police stops.
The “Police Tape” smartphone app will allow state residents to secretly record police during stops, protect the recordings from being deleted by unhappy officers and report the encounters to civil rights groups, the Star-Ledger reports.
The app’s signature feature, according to the paper, is its ability to operate in "stealth mode" while recording. When users begin video recording, the screen goes black, as if the device is off. When audio is being recorded, the app automatically minimizes and disappears.
'. . . Civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police.'
- Alexander Shalom, ACLU New Jersey
"Police often videotape civilians and civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police," Alexander Shalom, ACLU New Jersey’s policy counsel, told the paper. "When people know they’re being watched, they tend to behave well."
New Jersey is only the second state to have this type of app available to smartphone users, Shalom said.
Chris Tyminski, longtime president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 183, which represents Essex County sheriff’s officers, said an app like this can "blindside" a law enforcement officer but maintained, "We have nothing to hide."
The app developer, a watchdog group called OpenWatch, calls these types of programs "reverse surveillance," according to the paper.