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November 7, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Oregon ACLU encourages witnesses to video police

UPDATED, 1 p.m. with more details

PORTLAND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is distributing a smartphone app that lets people record videos of arrests and submit them for a civil-rights review.

Videos of police encounters and arrests in public places are a check on abuses, said David Fidanque, the executive director of the ACLU’s Oregon affiliate.

Work on the app began before the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but his death made the work more urgent, Fidanque told The Oregonian newspaper.

“Over-policing, racial profiling and the excessive use of force are also a problem here in Oregon,” he said.

The app called Mobile Justice is being distributed free for Android devices. An iPhone version is expected early next year.

The Oregon chapter is launching it along with affiliates in Missouri, Mississippi and Nebraska, with help from a grant from the national ACLU.

It’s modeled after the New York Civil Liberties Union’s “Stop and Frisk Watch” phone app that was released in 2012. Since then, New York’s app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times.

The new app has functions that allow users to add information about the events they record, or to file a report even if there was no audio or video recorded. There’s a function to alert the user if anyone else in the vicinity has started to film the same incident. The app sends the recording directly to the ACLU.

The app contains information about the rights of witnesses to film the police.

A spokesman for Portland police, Sgt. Pete Simpson, said the department doesn’t have a problem with recording.

“Portland police officers are quite used to being filmed, and all we ask is that people doing the filming stay a safe and respectable distance away from encounters so as not to interfere with the officers as they do their job,” Simpson said.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: ACLU, police, Portland

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