By Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service
Special to the NNPA via The Charlotte Post

RALEGH (NNPA) – At a time when the manner in which police engage with citizens is being questioned and re-evaluated, North Carolinians can now use their smartphones to record and report interactions with law enforcement.

“The user will have the option to give us their contact information, and fill out a brief report where they can document anything they think is important from the interaction,” says Manrique. “That is also immediately sent to us.” A new app called Mobile Justice N.C. records videos and immediately transmits footage to the ACLU of North Carolina. According to Carolyna Manrique, staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina, the video is preserved even if the user’s phone is later seized or destroyed.

The use of police body cameras is also being discussed in cities around the state, including Durham. The ACLU has documented at least 30 North Carolina communities where body cameras are in use, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

A bill that would limit public access to body and dash camera recordings, H 713, passed the state House in late April and has advanced to a state Senate committee.

Manrique says by taking ownership of documenting interactions with police, citizens can protect themselves against any violation of their rights. She adds that police body cameras are useful if the right policies are in place.

“We view people’s phones as the people’s body cameras,” she says. “Although we do support body-worn cameras for police officers, public access is really important.”

Mobile Justice has an informational video reminding people of their rights if they feel they’re being bothered for doing innocuous things like walking down the street, protesting or hanging out with friends.

“If you or someone around you becomes a police suspect for doing any of those things, you’ve got the Mobile Justice App,” says Manrique. “Mobile Justice makes it easy to record or report interactions with the police.”

Available in English and Spanish, Mobile Justice N.C. can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. Manrique says her office receives hundreds of calls each year from people describing negative encounters with police. Body camera supporters say it makes evidence collection easier and helps protect police from false claims of abuse.

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