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'Siri, I'm Getting Pulled Over.' The App That Records The Police For You

By Petr Knava | News | October 4, 2018 |

By Petr Knava | News | October 4, 2018 |


First, some statistics. In 2017, there were 987 Americans killed by American police forces. Out of those 987, 940 were male. 457 were White. And 223 were Black. In other words, while African Americans make up between 12-14% of the population of the United States of America, they make up about 24% of the deaths-by-police. That’s basically double the rate, and an astounding display of institutionalised racist violence.

It’s depressing to think too how many of these African Americans are killed by police following a simple traffic stop. For Black Americans, getting pulled over by the police, for any reason, can be a state-sanctioned death sentence. Even worse: Too often the result is an African American dead, and a police officer exonerated and unpunished, partly as a result of a system that protects its own while relying on a lack of evidence from the crime scene, or on the poor quality of any evidence that might be present. Of course, sometimes the evidence is still there, clear as day, and justice is still not served. Such is life in a state with white supremacy woven into its DNA. The only cure is a complete dismantling of the architecture of oppression.

However, while that may be the only cure, there is now a band-aid of sorts. An app that activates when you tell it you’re being stopped by the police, recording the interaction and sending the video, and a text message, to a predetermined contact. The app for iOS 12 is called ‘Police’ and it acts as a public version of the (oft-turned off) police body cam, switching on when you say, for example, ‘Siri, I’m getting pulled over.’ Developed by Robert Peterson, a developer from Arizona, ‘Police’ runs on the new iOS script system called Shortcuts, which allows you to stitch together workflows of several different apps. When you invoke it by speaking the key phrase, the app pauses any music you might be playing, dims the screen, switches on the front camera, and starts recording, sending the results on to anyone you tell it to beforehand. It is not the first of its kind, with the ACLU and others having developed similar systems for recording police encounters before, but any addition to this civilian arsenal in the battle against police brutality is more than welcome.

Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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