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Mobile Justice App Puts Civil Rights In Your Pocket

PHOTO: Knowledge is power, and the ACLU of Missouri hopes its new smartphone app will empower Missourians with the information and tools they need to protect their civil rights. Image courtesy of ACLU of Missouri.
PHOTO: Knowledge is power, and the ACLU of Missouri hopes its new smartphone app will empower Missourians with the information and tools they need to protect their civil rights. Image courtesy of ACLU of Missouri.
November 13, 2014

ST. LOUIS - If you don't know your rights, you won't know if they're being violated.

With that adage in mind, the ACLU of Missouri has launched a high-tech campaign to educate and empower Missourians when it comes to proper contact with police and law enforcement.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, says the organization's new Mobile Justice smartphone app explains what proper police contact is, and allows users to record and report audio and video of themselves or others in exchanges with police.

Mittman says his organization has seen a spike in reports of police harassment since the August 9 shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.

"We've certainly seen this in Ferguson, and that's raised the importance of this issue," says Mittman. "I don't want to say this is a Missouri-only or a Ferguson-only situation. Unfortunately, this is far too common all across the country."

The app, which is available on the ACLU of Missouri website and in the Google Play store, has already been downloaded more than 1,000 times. Similar versions have been highly popular in other states. An iPhone version of the app is expected in the next few months.

Mittman says now that most Missourians carry a recording device in their pockets or purses, it's all the more critical they know exactly what their rights are.

"What is and is not proper contact by police officers, and what rights individuals have," he says. "What to ask police, when you're free to go, when they can stop you, when you can be searched."

This week, the ACLU of Missouri filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of a Turkish journalist who was arrested, and whose photographic equipment and files were damaged and confiscated by police while he was covering the protests in Ferguson.

Mona Shand/Tommy Hough, Public News Service - MO