How to Record the Cops, Ct’d . . .

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Last year, I made some suggestions about features smart phone aps would need to add to make them more useful in recording government officials.

At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes about a couple new aps that hit the mark:

Which is what makes two new apps, CopRecorder and OpenWatch, and their Web component,, so interesting. They are the brainchildren of Rich Jones, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate who describes himself as “pretty much a hacker to the core.” Flush with cash and time from a few successful forays into the app market, nine months ago Jones decided to devote some of his time to developing what he calls “a global participatory counter-surveillance project which uses cellular phones as a way of monitoring authority figures.”

CopRecorder can record audio without indicating that it’s doing so like the Voice Memos app does. It comes with a built-in uploader to OpenWatch, so that Jones can do “analysis” of the recording and scrub any personally identifying data before posting the audio. He said he receives between 50 and 100 submissions per day, with a really interesting encounter with an authority figure coming in about every day and a half.

The article goes on to describe an encounter in which a defense attorney uses the ap to record cops violating his rights at a DWI checkpoint.

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24 Responses to “How to Record the Cops, Ct’d . . .”

  1. #1 |  Mo | 

    This is great. However, one feature I would like to see is automatic uploading to a holding account like you described in Qik or UStream. This would prevent files from being deleted or destroyed with the phone.

  2. #2 |  Jolly Rodger | 

    I downloaded OpenWatch the other week… Seems to work pretty well. I’d definitely recommended it for Android users.

  3. #3 |  John P. | 

    At first I was a bit skeptical but now I am beginning to think this issue, recording of cops might be what we need to bring light upon a profession that grows more and more corrupt each day.

    It seems that people are relating to this faster than I thought they would. Which is great!

    Whatever it takes to wake people up and expose them to just how criminal the police are becoming every day.

    Hopefully the courts will continue to strike down these arrests as unconstitutional, eventually this issue will come home to roost for the cops who endeavor to violate someones rights.

  4. #4 |  ktc2 | 

    I hope it fixes the problem with Qik. In Qik if your phone is grabbed or smashed and you don’t hit the stop button the video never gets uploaded (at least last time I used it). I’d rather have a streaming upload that if it gets cut off in transmission still salvages what was already transmitted.

  5. #5 |  WWJGD | 

    I was glad to see someone make a very simple and effective app like this. Mo hits on the point that we do need something that autouploads like Qik (Which was bought by Skype which was bought by Microsoft so we may see a stalling of Qik updates for Android…maybe.) I immediately downloaded it and placed it right on my home screen.

    Thankfully, no one has capitalized on my other civil rights app idea so I have time to work on it.

    Julian Sanchez wrote about this yesterday/few days ago, but the increase in remote wipe software (SeekDroid does it for Android, Apple has Find My iPhone) has led to some increased protection by police when they handle “evidence”. Confiscated phones could be quickly thrown in Faraday bags. Without automatic uploading software like Qik, it may be difficult to recover misconduct evidence before it’s wiped. I think that’s OpenWatch’s biggest flaw. I’d imagine some sort of simple Dropbox or cloud storage integration could fix it.

  6. #6 |  Miskellaneous | 

    I have heard about the Faraday bag thing. Simple solution, if the phone is not in touch with a network for more than X hours, it receives a call. If no one answers the call or touches the screen or the like, the data is wiped.

    It has problems but problems have solutions.

  7. #7 |  Unknown | 

    Sweet! I’ve seen these kind of things before, where you record a conversation, then later chop and edit it so you can make the person sound like they are saying pretty much whatever you want. That’s freakin’ awesome.

    Exmple, conversation with a cop at the local 7-11. “Excuse me officer, I was wondering if I could get you to help me with some directions, can get from here to there on this road? (officer)No, nope not at all, you need to go this way.(citizen) Ohhhh ok thanks a lot. One more question, Is it true that in order to be a cop, you have to take extensive training in racial profiling, use of force, and constitutional rights. (Officer) Of course! It’s been mandatory training for police officers in the united stated for many years now to have at least 40 hours per year of in-service training in these areas to keep our P.O. licenses. (citizen) Awesome, well thanks Sir.”

    After chopping and editing the conversation sounds like this “dude you’ll never believe what I caught this cop saying on this nifty app I got for my phone. He was rude as hell, and wouldn’t even help me when I was lost.. Check this out! (new recording) ” Excuse me officer, I was wondering if I could get you to help me with some directions. (officer) No. (citizen)Question, Is it true that in order to be a cop, you have to take extensive training in racial profiling, use of force, and constitutional rights. (officer) Nope, not at all”

    In this day and age, almost all police officers are required to have some sort of recording equipment running when dealing with the public because of situations like the one I mentioned above. Not only did I have that exact thing done to me, I was recording the whole thing in my in car video. When he popped up trying to complain that I was rude, and posted jacked up recording on a popular video website (supposedly) capturing me making damaging comments about my training and profession, not only was he charged with false report, I later sued that little shit for slander…and won.

  8. #8 |  Unknown | 

    I didn’t post that for the purpose of berating you in anyway. I posted that for informational purpose to “CYA” you. If someone got a hold of your app, and used it in that way, that cop could come back and not only sue the person, but sue you as well for providing that person with the means to do it.

  9. #9 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I must admit that I see this one (cops arresting you for recording) getting changed quickly across the USA. There is just so little the state can do to continue protecting their street gang from having their assaults on Rights being broadcast globally and instantly.

    Between now and then, there should be some nice coin made by lawyers winning these landmark cases and, of course, coin spent by taxpayers paying the settlements.

    As for the “editing” issue, this provides a great incentive for state agents to adopt a policy of constant recording of all interactions with the public. May the best sound editor win.

    almost all police officers are required to have some sort of recording equipment running when dealing with the public because of situations like the one I mentioned above.

    I don’t know how someone can make this absurd claim if they’ve read more than two posts on this site. First, what is a “requirement” if failing to meet that requirement results in no action? Second, the abuses by the LEO gang the public fears are not the ones captured on police recordings. It is all the time when the police don’t think they are being recorded–or threaten with arrest legal recordings–that the public fears.

  10. #10 |  Andrew S. | 

    I didn’t post that for the purpose of berating you in anyway. I posted that for informational purpose to “CYA” you. If someone got a hold of your app, and used it in that way, that cop could come back and not only sue the person, but sue you as well for providing that person with the means to do it.

    I’m not sure what school you obtained your GED in law from, but no. There is no legal basis under which one could sue Radley (or the manufacturer of the app) for that.

  11. #11 |  Big A | 

    Well then, could the person at least sue Unknown for giving them the idea to sue Radley or the app manufacturer?

  12. #12 |  Big A | 

    P.S. Anyone who has to edit a video to make it appear as though a police officer was being rude or threatening should learn a little patience.

  13. #13 |  EH | 

    Unknown: Give it up on the technophobic “editing” angle, it’s a non-starter. Also, if there’s a such thing as contributory eavesdropping, it’s been long dealt with since the first time someone tried to sue Panasonic over a minicassette recorder being used for same.

    But then again, in true thread-shitting troll fashion, you’ve probably already forgotten that you were here and so won’t respond to any of this.

  14. #14 |  Nick | 

    Eyez, with the help of a smartphone app, will allow a user to record video to either be streamed in realtime for viewing or saved to cloud storage. They’re also unrecognizable as a camera.

  15. #15 |  Buzz | 

    I call bullshit on unknown for……well, just about everything in his post.

  16. #16 |  Josh K | 

    Somewhat on topic, I caught this link from slashdot last week, under the heading “LulzSec Document Dump Shows Cops’ Fear of iPhones”:

  17. #17 |  Stephen | 

    Don’t you just love cop noses?

    I bet they are so good they can identify substance and bearing and range. :)

  18. #18 |  Laura Victoria | 

    I’m glad to see this developing. At a conservative blog I participate in (, they asked me about recording cops in Cabo, where I live, clearly knowing you can’t record cops here. They are fearful of being identified by narcotraficantes. I do think that is a legit concern, but the bottom line is that in almost 6 years living here full-time, I’ve never had cause to want to film them. They are polite and fair. They are far better than those I have dealt with in the US.

    I have paid small bribes, “mordidas”, which means literally “bites,” but this has been in legitimate traffic stops that cost like 16 bucks, as opposed to ten times that much for a ticket in the US, plus at least a half hour of time and rude humiliation, as opposed to five minutes of time here, with manners being the rule. One time, I got pulled over for speeding, which I was, by the Federales. I had just lost my job, and explained this to them as the reason for my inattententiveness. The poor guys saw I was upset and it was all they could do to apologize for in any way contributing to my upset.

    I had expired tags and the whole 9 yards, and these guys didn’t care. I was old enough to be their mom so there was no hotty defense involved.

    Anyhow, what I try to do with these stories (from the US) is get them out to conservative audiences who might otherwise think it is just the wise guy ghetto punk who ever has problems with cops, and I think the message is getting out there (and I don’t mean because of my tiny contribution).

    The arrest the other day of the Reason reporter at the taxi meeting got a lot of play and got mainstream conservatives extremely pissed off.

    Another thread I frequently see, is people realize today’s cops are not the cops of yore. Say, back in the ’70s. My high school friends and I smoked pot and drank on the beach in L.A. into the wee hours. We thought the cops were the enemy, but only because they could bust us. The most they did was break up our beach parties and tell us to go home. We never thought they were mean-spirited liars dying to set us up, and never feared they would abuse us. I think that point really resonates with mainstream conservatives. Today’s union-protected thugs are not the same as the old guard who were basically decent guys.

  19. #19 |  freedomfan | 

    Not to say that I don’t believe Unknown (#7) with his story of some jackass submitting an edited recording of him to support a false police complaint, but almost anyone who has the ability to do the editing knows that it’s really easy to determine when audio has been edited like that. Not to say that some prankster has never posted edited audio somewhere, but trying to use it to file an official complaint against a cop? Yeah, sure.

    And, Unknown’s understanding of whether an app developer can be sued because his otherwise legitimate app was a tool in someone else’s actionable offense seems to ignore a few important cases from several years back where torts against file-sharing software lost on that very claim. As I recall, the essential issue was whether there was a reasonable legitimate use for the software. In this case, there is no doubt that there is.

    However, even if the incident Unknowns claims happened to him actually did happen, the lesson is that the recordings protect the police as well, since it was a recording that cleared him. As long is he is doing nothing wrong, he should be happy to be recorded and he should be thankful to have his own recording as insurance against shenanigans. 1) Police officer does nothing wrong. 2) Recorded evidence provides an extra layer of credibility that he did nothing wrong. Easy. Of course, with all of the police hostility toward citizen recordings and with all of the “official” recordings that “go missing”, one can’t help but wonder what part of that scenario is in doubt.

  20. #20 |  ParatrooperJJ | 

    It quite possibly become a federal crime of wire fraud by selling criminal tools across state lines.

  21. #21 |  Copwatcher17 | 

    The release of the Quadrocopter last week conjures up the possibility of streaming video from an aerial perspective, while at the same time streaming audio from the phone itself. The Quadrocopter *is* bulky and could invite cops to take pot shots at it, but it’s probably just a matter of time before we’ll see insect sized flying cameras that can be deployed in an instant to point at the general direction of a mobile device & stream video.

  22. #22 |  Digital Gravy | 

    There was a time not too long ago, when the government was intent on placing video cameras on every street corner in every city here in the US of A. My how times have changed! Now the government isn’t so sure cameras in every town and city where such a good idea after all, especially now that video cameras and the means to store or transmit video and audio have become so cheap that soon we may even see them in boxes of cereal.
    Recently I was at and seen for sale a video camera, DVR combo with 2 gigs of ram for under $15 dollars, that hung from a key chain! It was the size of your thumb and looked like a vehicle remote control.

    As the local, state and federal governments criminal behavior becomes more brazen and open to scrutiny you can bet more so called “governing bodies” will try and pass more local, state and federal ordinance forbidding the citizens from recording, while exempting themselves.

    My feelings are to flood your environment of your car, home and work place with hidden cameras that can store or spool wireless to several off site storage areas simultaneously, not just the “cloud” due to officials being able to control the “cloud”, but to private hidden sites you or your friends can access in case there is any trouble with the “authorities”.

    Of course I’m taking for granted that most “courts and their judges” are still honest and follow legal law. However that also looks like a fading item of the past also, so take care in what you do.

  23. #23 |  chris | 

    Unknown poster sounds like the cop who arrested that lady for videotaping in her own yard. Worried about histh thsafety. Notice he wasn’t worried about anybody who didn’t have a camera. Man up and serve the public for your welfare check instead of arguing complete and utter non-sense.

  24. #24 |  Joe in Missouri | 

    The author of the software is way ahead of the curve and is already working on streaming to a protected site and many other improvements.
    Looks like a winner to me. :-)