Tallahassee Police Department Endorses Bystander App to Record Police Interactions

September 7, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The Tallahassee Police Department introduced a first of its kind  mobile phone app last month that allows the public to record their interactions with law enforcement. Coined “Tallahassee Bystander”, the app, which was unveiled by Tallahassee’s Police Chief, is supposed to be a way for law enforcement to “listen and continue to collaborate on ways to strengthen our relationships with the community” and “build trust and transparency in the community.”

Interestingly, the app is the first of its kind in the country. Other apps have been created with the sole purpose of recording police interactions, such as “Hands Up 4 Justice”, “Stop and Frisk”, “Mobile Justice”, and “I’m Getting Arrested”. However, Tallahassee’s is different than the rest because it is the first mobile app fully endorsed by a police department. The city’s creation and implementation of the app comes after Black Lives Matter protests engulfed the country last year, following the death of George Floyd who died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. In addition, the app follows a tumultuous year for Tallahassee, whose police force was involved in three separate deadly shootings. If you would like to read more about the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 and the other social justice movements that have followed, you can do so here. You can also read more about the cases of deadly force in Tallahassee here.  

The app allows for the creation of the Citizens Police Review Board to review interactions with police that are recorded through the app. In addition, the app includes the following features:

  • Proprietary voice activation technology to ensure safe operation.
  • The recorded videos stream off the phone live, meaning, once a video starts it can’t be censored.
  • Anonymous submissions since there is no app registration.
  • The ability for Tallahassee Police Department to reach out to those who submitted the videos while maintaining anonymity.
  • The videos are distributed to multiple parties to ensure transparency.
  • One copy of the video will stream to Tallahassee Police Department, one copy will save to the phone, and others stream to three anonymous emergency contacts set by the submitter.

If you are interested in downloading the app, you can do so by visiting the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

Why it’s Important

Tallahassee was given an overall score of 44% on Police Scorecard, with rankings based on a scale of 0-100%, showing departments with higher scores using less force, making fewer arrests for lower level offenses, solving murder cases more often, and holding police officers more accountable. Tallahassee had more killings by police from 2013-2020, approximately 2.2 out of every 10,000 arrests, than 86% of departments in Florida. In addition, there were more racial disparities in deadly force used by police than in 49% of the departments in Florida. Although these numbers certainly do not speak to all officers, apps like the one implemented by Tallahassee are imperative in increasing police accountability and developing trust between law enforcement and the community as a whole.

Can I Get in Trouble by Using the App?

No, under Florida law, you are permitted to record police if you are in a public space and if recording them does not interfere with them conducting police activity. Furthermore, the Tallahassee Police Department spearheading this app signifies that it is absolutely within your legal rights to use the app, or a similar app, if you wish to do so. You can read more about recording police here.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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