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Copwatch, New Smartphone Apps Take Aim At Police Brutality

CopWatch + A Slew Of Other Apps Help Document, Condemn Police Brutality

by Scott Heins
April 13, 2015 1:32 PM

Walter Scott Shooting Still Large

Last week, in North Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott was shot and killed by a police officer as he ran away, unarmed, from what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. And immediately following that moment, a powerful system immediately kicked into action. Scott’s killer, officer Michael Slager, filed a report claiming that the slain 50 year-old man had taken his taser and claimed to have followed “all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force,” the Charleston Post and Courier reported. In the same article, Scott’s character was attacked through the mention of past arrests, while Slager was lionized as a National Guard veteran who had no previous blemishes on his record. Days began to pass, and Scott’s death began to fade from the news, a sad buy presumably justifiable end to another black man’s encounter with law enforcement.

But then a video was published. Cell phone camera footage from the scene of Scott’s death told a different story, one that contradicted Slager’s account and lead to murder charges being pressed. More and more, bystander video shot on cell phones is making it possible for the public to know what really happened during police-suspect altercations. And it appears to be making a difference. While the outcome of the Eric Garner case proves that damning video won’t always lead to the indictment of a police officer, the footage of Walter Scott and Eric Garner’s final moments has sparked a heated national conversation, lead to protests, and made it impossible for politicians and police forces to carry on as usual.

Now, a slew of new mobile smartphone apps are vying to make it easier for witnesses to call out police brutality. One such app is CopWatch , a video platform designed by Darren Baptiste which streamlines the process of taking video, uploading it online, and tagging so that media whistleblowers and everyday citizens alike can quickly find, watch, and judge police actions for themselves. “People feel powerless next to a cop with a gun and a night stick and a can of pepper spray,” Baptiste recently told Slate. “Now, they have a camera.”

CopWatch Iphone Screenshot
(CopWatch app screenshot)

And CopWatch isn’t alone. Android users can utilize the ACLU-designed Mobile Justice to capture and upload and spread videos of police abuse, and International Evidence Locker helps everyday citizens collect and catalog systematic abuse before sending it directly to human rights groups. Also, photo recovery apps like PhotoRec have become increasingly popular in situations where citizens’ videos are forcibly deleted by officers hoping to cover up abuse.

Read more about CopWatch in the pages of Slate, and download it via the iTunes app store here.



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