Cell phones are effectively cops in your pocket, but as long as you’re carrying one around, you may as well use whatever resources are available to keep the cops in check. I reviewed a number of Android apps that can be used for ‘copwatching’ – i.e., recording cops on the street to have a record when shit goes down – in various capacities. Good luck!
Mobile Justice CA
Cops have been known to snatch phones away from copwatchers recording their abuses to delete the evidence; this app automatically streams your footage to the ACLU, so the video isn’t lost completely even if the cops take your phone. The app is easy to use and even includes a digital Know Your Rights pamphlet, but unfortunately it’s up to the ACLU to handle your videos once you upload them, so it’s hard to know for sure how well the program actually works. In the meantime, it’s pro-bono, so what do you have to lose?
Five-O allows users to submit incident reports describing interactions with police in their area, generating scores for local departments and individual officers in your area. The idea is an admirable one – it provides a forum for users to discuss the worst cops in their neighborhood, and identify patterns in local policing. Unfortunately, the forums are largely devoid of actual discussion, probably in part because the poor layout makes the entire app very cumbersome to use. Hopefully there will be updates in the future, because this app shows a lot of promise.
I’m Getting Arrested
I love this app, it’s so simple! With a single tap of the screen, users can send a pre-written MMS text and your location to a list of contacts of your choosing announcing that you are being arrested and any other information you might want to send. It’s ideal for use amongst affinity groups at high-risk protests and riots, but it could be helpful for anyone carrying out a direct action, or even just for walking home.
This was app was designed to allow your friends to virtually ‘walk you home at night’ by tracking your trip via GPS. They’ll be notified when you get home (or if you suddenly go off-course, get pushed, etc), and in the meantime buttons onscreen allow you to instantly call the police or mark an area as ‘suspicious’ if you feel nervous. While the app is clearly designed with, ahem, an attitude towards the police that you might not share, it can still be used to help comrades keep track of each other if you feel nervous about being nabbed by the police (i.e. when leaving a protest, or when there is a warrant out for your arrest).
I don’t speak pig latin so police scanners are largely incomprehensible to me, but if you find it helpful to listen in on a department’s radio chatter, this app can give you access to a remarkable array of police bands, though not all departments seem to be covered. Personally I find twitter more useful during a riot, but to each their own.