Last week, the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union launched a new app called ACLU Blue that allows users to record and share videos of interactions with police. When a user uploads a video via the new app, it will be reviewed and then posted to ACLU Blue's YouTube channel, where it can then be viewed by the general public.
Dione Friends, director of communications for the ACLU of Texas, said that the app is not only for negative encounters, but is also intended to highlight positive interactions as well. "When folks are doing it right, there's a lot of value in elevating that and saying, 'This is what model policing looks like,'" Friends said. “That helps make it more clear when something goes wrong."
The ACLU had previously released a similar app called Mobile Justice, which uploaded videos straight to ACLU lawyers for the purpose of sourcing legal advice. Friends said that while Texans wanted a version of the app, it wasn't feasible to roll it out in such a large state. "The hardest thing for us is that Texas is just so big," she said. "I didn't want to build something that would put a really big burden on our legal team."
With ACLU Blue, trained community members can help review videos online, removing some of the burden from ACLU staff. Friends also hopes the public sharing of the videos will help kick-start conversations about policing.
The app is currently only meant for use in Texas, but a national app is reportedly in the works. "Video is very powerful," Friends said. "It tells a story in a way that you can't really refute."