By Aaron Kesel
A new app lets users become a witness to police brutality. The app intelligently titled “BEAR Witness” allows users to instantly record any cases of police brutality in real-time.
Kyieme White, a developer of the app, talked to The North Star, about how individuals can alert others in their area when they are feeling unsafe during law enforcement interactions. BEAR, is an acronym for Bystanders Exercising American Rights, has a mission of creating a positive impact and change in every community by offering support and peace of mind to any fellow “BEARs” who may feel alone and unsafe in potentially dangerous law enforcement interactions.
The start-up app created by Kyieme and his partner Jenna is new but the concept isn’t and there are actually other apps as well. Per their website, the creators believe that “the American right to bear witness to law enforcement interactions with the public, especially in situations that appear to be escalating in a fatal direction.”
Other apps that track law enforcement have been being created as we witness police brutality get to higher levels than normal. For example, the Legal Equalizer app captures police encounters after the user is pulled over, automatically notifying loved ones and providing basic legal information on the spot. The app also plans to allow users to receive on-the-scene legal advice for a fee by calling local attorneys who are part of the app’s network. A lawyer near the encounter could monitor the situation via Zoom and advise users on their rights.
Another app, called Legal LifeLines created by a black criminal lawyer Michael Herford allows anyone at risk of being stopped and searched by police to film incidents to ensure they have an “independent witness,” The Guardian reported.
These apps help provide a different perspective on an incident from police bodycam footage; or on the flipside, evidence when a police bodycam is absent or its footage has been “lost.”
There is also the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app available in all 50 states which allows a user to record a video and submits police incidents directly to local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In addition, the app lets users send videos via text messaging to family and private attorneys.
The ACLU advertises Mobile Justice, stating, “whether at a protest, a polling place or on the go,” it’s the perfect app to allow users to:
- RECORD encounters with public officials and law enforcement while streaming to your closest contacts and your local ACLU;
- REPORT any abuse by authorities to the ACLU and its networks; and
- EMPOWER yourself with up-to-date information regarding your rights as well as important actions and happenings in your area.
“The initial goal was to make sure abuses from law enforcement were caught on camera, so we can ultimately reform the system, but what we’re seeing is it’s not just about capturing abuse,” Marcus Benigno, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Southern California, told CNN. He added, “It’s become a deescalation tool. It can help people feel empowered while forcing officers to take a second to reevaluate the situation. There are countless videos showing people asserting their right to film with a sense of security and safety.”
The Cop Watch Video Recorder app opens with Siri on iPhones, automatically beginning filming and sending footage to the cloud. The apps film in real-time in case the cop seizes or breaks the phone.
Activists and developers have also created other apps and there seems to be an influx of police brutality monitoring apps given the climate of police violence against civilians.
These apps attempt to give potential victims of police violence new tools to monitor police and prevent a police brutality situation in real-time, which is much more proactive than having to rely on videos to go viral after incidents have already occurred. Given that these outcomes frequently lead to serious injury or death, anything that aims to limit or stop possible violence by law enforcement before it occurs is a far better option.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post.
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