ACLU-MN launches Mobile Justice app to record police

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU) announced the organization will release a phone app aimed at recording conversations with police and community members to ensure evidence can’t be destroyed.

One a police encounter is recorded on the “Mobile Justice App,” whether it’s between officers or between an officer and another individual, that recording will be sent to the ACLU of Minnesota.

How it works:

-Record button allows conversations to be recorded
-Audio and video files are automatically sent to the ACLU of Minnesota
-Witness function sends out an alert when police stop someone so “community members can move toward the location and document the interaction.”
-Report feature allows the user to complete an incident report and send to the ACLU where legal staff will review the materials.
-“Know Your Rights” section in English and Spanish provides an overview of a person’s rights when stopped by law enforcement

"That's something that will be useful if the people using it use it responsibly," attorney Bob Bennett said.

Officials from ACLU Minnesota will release more information about the app’s implications in Friday, Nov. 13 at their headquarters in St. Paul. But not everyone is in favor of it.

"It’s unwarranted, not needed," Bob Kroll, Minneapolis Police Federation President, said. "It’s just the ACLU causing trouble. Doing more to deteriorate police community relations.”

In the pursuit of accountability and transparency, the Minneapolis Police Department continues to look at making police body cameras standard equipment. Three Minnesota police departments are among the 73 agencies nationwide that received $23 million in federal grants for police body cameras. Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe police forces received a share of the money from the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the body-worn camera pilot implementation program. 

"We teach our officers to act like they’re on camera all the time," Kroll said.  "The people you’re dealing with set the tone. If the suspect is going to resist, it’s our job not to lose. We have to take people into custody. Sometimes that happens and whenever officers use force. It’s not pretty, but the daily contacts officers have are positive.”

Bennett says the business of holding police accountable has broadened considerably with the advent of milestone video cameras downtown, squad cameras, and body cameras. He said this is "just another tool."

Statement from Minneapolis Police Department

"Minneapolis Police Officers work in the public domain and are routinely recorded either by cell phones, public or private cameras including our own squad cameras. In 2016 Body Worn Cameras will start to be assigned to street officers and will also capture many aspects of policing."