7 Apps for Police Recording and Public Protection
The evolution of technology has significantly enhanced the capabilities of law enforcement agencies, especially in the areas of police recording and public protection. Modern recording devices, such as body cameras, have become standard equipment for officers, in an attempt to provide a transparent account of interactions between police and the public. Plus, advancements in surveillance technology have resulted in near real-time monitoring of many public spaces.
That’s not to say the average citizen hasn’t also gained an increased ability to protect themselves with modern technology. The ubiquity of smartphones ensures that every person can document, record, and publish incidents they witness or interactions with police. Here are some of the most popular app and tools citizens are using today to record police and protect the public:
1. Community Response Works
Formerly known as Raheem, the nation’s first independent service for reporting police online, Community Response Works is a nonprofit organization that offers technology, training, and resources for early-stage response teams. For example, PATCH (People and Technology for Community Health) is a network of mobile crisis teams, health and social services, and abolitionist organizations across the country that focus on de-escalating crises and deliver care without police response. While Community Response Works is not an application itself, its Patch app is currently in beta and will be released soon, so the organization receives honorable mention on this list.
Purpose: Provide tools and strengthen skills to help community-based crisis teams save lives.
Cost: Free (member based)
2. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner
5-0 Radio is an app that offers the largest collection of live police, firefighter, aircraft, railroad, emergency, news, and ham radio feeds. With this app, you can be the first to know about crime in your areas, as it’s happening, as well as weather events, fires, terrorism, and more. This will help you stay informed on what’s happening with police-citizen interactions in your area. Customize your feeds for your city or county, and chat with other users. Plus, new police feeds and others are added on an hourly basis.
Purpose: Listen to police and other community response feeds.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
3. Cop Watch
First released in 2014, Cop Watch has enabled citizens to record police for a decade. The app is designed to make it easy to create and upload videos, with settings like auto-record as soon as the app is launched and auto-upload to iCloud. The app also provides informational material about your right to capture these videos.
Purpose: Provide an easy way to create and upload videos about police-citizen interactions.
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
4. Mobile Justice
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) turned 100 years old in 2020. It’s one of the oldest and most important organizations watchdogging excessive police action and abuse. Its app for recording police interactions is called Mobile Justice™. You can record police or any public officials, and share the content with select people in your smartphone’s contact list. The content can also be shared with your local ACLU chapter. You can additionally get notifications of law changes in your area that affect your rights.
Purpose: Record police and other public officials, report abuse, and stay informed of your rights.
Rating: 2.8 out of 5
What if you wanted to feel more secure while communicating with other people during street protests? The Signal messaging app is dedicated to privacy for users and blocking outside eavesdroppers, including the government. It supports highly encrypted calling, video, and messaging services for free. Signal’s developers state that, “We know nothing about you or who you’re talking to. Our open source Signal Protocol means that we can’t read your messages or listen to your calls. Neither can anyone else. No back doors, no data collection, no compromises.”
Purpose: Keep your communications completely private.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Citizen is “the most powerful safety app for today’s world.” Like the app Nextdoor, Citizen enables people to closely monitor public safety agencies and incidents. Traditional radio scanner apps allow people to listen in on police radio communications. Nextdoor allows people to post video and images of suspicious activity. Citizen essentially combines the two and supercharges monitoring of police and fire incidents. But it can just as easily be used to record police and hold public safety officials accountable.
Purpose: Get real-time safety alerts, watch live video of incidents unfolding, and report incidents you witness.
Rating: 4.7 out of 5
There’s a little-known shortcut available on the iPhone (models 12 and newer) that makes police monitoring far easier. Apple has empowered developers to create simple shortcuts they can then share with other iPhone users. A developer in Arizona created a shortcut called Police that anyone can download. By simply saying “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over,” the iPhone turns down any music, dims your phone’s screen, and begins recording the interaction.
Purpose: Mute other phone functions and begin recording police.
Cost: Free (iPhone shortcut)
Aside from the apps listed above, there are also numerous nonprofit organizations that are focused on improving law enforcement policies and advancing public protection. For example, the Center for Policing Equity is using big data on behalf of police departments to help them spot where racial disparities are occurring and growing worse. Called COMPSTAT for Justice, the team hopes to build community trust by analyzing traffic stops, instances of use of force, surveys of the public, and academy and training procedures.
As technology evolves, it offers an opportunity to create a balance of power between citizens, public officials, and law enforcement agencies, which is critical for the well-being of every community.