Earlier this week I took part in a phone interview with Matt Stout, journalist with the Boston Herald, and discussed a number of things about CopBlock and the police. The blockquotes below are of his write-up posted at BostonHerald.com. I just want to clarify two things. First, I’m not personally working on an app; a few of my friends are (Cell411) and I’m providing feedback and beta testing. Also, CopBlock.org didn’t get 3 million views last month, it got 3.5 million (but who’s counting).
Nevertheless, technology (as always) is changing the world, and live streaming is on the forefront of this advancement for police accountability, as Matt states in his piece, “Activists Working to Live Broadcast Police Actions.”
By Matt Stout: A national cop-watching website with New England roots says it’s working on a new app that would broadcast citizen cellphone videos of police encounters as they happen — a new platform experts say could expand, and complicate, how the public records officers at crime scenes.
“There have been too many times a cop (sees a phone recording video and) says, ‘That’s evidence, I’m going to take it.’ And then they hold it while you jump through legal hoops. … That isn’t possible with live streaming,” said Ademo Freeman, 33, a New Hampshire resident and founder of CopBlock.org.
“You can see these things evolving in the private sector. You can see new media producing that content, adapting it and utilizing it,” Freeman said. “That’s the benefit of live streaming. You can get the information out really quickly.”
Freeman, whose legal name is Adam Mueller, said he’s working on an app that could take so-called live-streamed video, plug it into a server at CopBlock.org and blast it out on blogs and elsewhere throughout his site, which draws more than 3 million page views a month.
Freeman said he believes it adds a new dimension to the growing debate on private citizens filming police actions. For one thing, he said, the specter of live streaming changes the dynamic on the scene. There have been times, for instance, when officers question whether he’s recording, he said.
“ ‘No, I’m live streaming, and 358 people are watching you right now.’ I found that has changed their demeanor,” Freeman said, adding that the options for live streaming have exploded to include apps such as LiveStream, UStream and Bambuser.
“YouTube is starting to dabble in live-stream capabilities,” he said.
CopBlock, which Freeman described as a “decentralized organization,” has offshoots throughout the country, including a Massachusetts CopBlock Facebook page. More than 250 groups are involved.
The American Civil Liberties Union debuted an app earlier this year in seven states that allows citizens to load footage and reports of police encounters, which would then be sent immediately to their local ACLU affiliate.
Live streaming would “generally” fall under the same First Amendment protections that other filming of police enjoys, said Paul Larkin, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of a 2014 study that found police are “less likely to engage in misconduct when they know they are being recorded.”
But there are instances when it could be a “problem,” Larkin said, pointing to situations where police are executing a search warrant or are preparing to “breach” a hostage incident. They’re examples where potential live broadcasting of police actions could actually impede them, he said.
“There clearly are circumstances where it would not be remotely unlawful or unconstitutional to prevent the live streaming of event,” Larkin said.
Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans, in a statement yesterday, said the issue “is not whether the video is live or not.”
“We become concerned when the filming of police puts the public and officers at risk and would support legislation that would regulate this type of behavior,” Evans said.
If you’d like to learn more about smartphone apps that can assist you while filming the police, simply check out the CopBlock.org Apps page.