ACLU of California Releases Tool to Hold Law Enforcement Accountable

The ACLU of California today launched Mobile Justice CA, a free smart phone app allowing Californians to automatically record and submit cell phone videos to their ACLU affiliate when they feel law enforcement officers are violating civil rights.

Videos captured on the Mobile Justice CA app available for use on Android and iOS phones will be transmitted to the ACLU and preserved even if the user’s phone is later seized or destroyed.

“The concerns over police practices, including racial profiling and excessive use of force, are very real for communities across the state,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “This app will help serve as a check on abuse – whether by police officers, sheriff’s deputies, border patrol, or other officials – allowing ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement.”

Mobile Justice CA can be downloaded free through Apple’s App Store or Google Play. It enables users to register, record, witness and report interactions with law enforcement and includes information on individual rights.

  • Record allows individuals to capture exchanges with police officers and other law enforcement officials in audio and video files that are automatically sent to the ACLU of California.
  • Witness sends out an alert to anyone with the app, giving them the option to go to the location and document the encounter when police stop someone.
  • Report allows the app user to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU for review.
  • Know Your Rights provides an overview of what rights protect you when you are stopped by law enforcement officers.

The Ella Baker Center is partnering with the ACLU of CA to support the launch of the Mobile Justice CA app. EBC will collaborate with the ACLU SoCal on broadening and deepening community organizations’ and community members’ engagement with the app.

“People who historically have had very little power in the face of law enforcement now have this tool to reclaim their power and dignity,” said Patrisse Cullors, director of the Truth and Reinvestment Campaign at EBC. “Our vision is that this app will ultimately help community members connect and organize to respond to incidents of law enforcement violence, and then share their experiences and knowledge with others.”

“From Rodney King to Walter Scott, we’ve seen video bring police abuse into public view that otherwise could have gone ignored,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the ACLU of Southern California. “Helping the public record law enforcement will help deter misconduct and document abuse when it does happen, so both officers and the criminal justice system can be held accountable.”

While Mobile Justice CA is intended for use by bystanders, the ACLU of California recognizes that some users may want to use it while they are involved in a police encounter. Anyone interacting with law enforcement should announce that they are reaching for a phone, and that they are attempting to access the app to record the exchange. Users’ safety depends on their ability to clearly communicate any actions they take and remain calm.

The ACLU of California will be working with community organizations to provide “Know Your Rights” trainings on how to use the app as well as basic rights related to interactions with law enforcement.  We encourage groups to contact us to arrange a training.

A grant from Susan Adelman and Claudio Llanos allowed the ACLU of California to develop the Mobile Justice CA app.

Learn more about Mobile Justice CA and download the app at mobilejusticeca.org.

The ACLU of California is a collaboration of the three ACLU affiliates in the state—the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

For more information on the app, including a video, FAQ, and one-page overview of how to use the app, please see: https://www.mobilejusticeca.org/press-kit

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