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culture

Keeping Track of the Cops

New app lets people record interactions with police.

Photo by AshtonPal, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

Darren Baptiste, a 46-year-old app developer, wanted to create a resource that would inform and protect people by giving them the power to record interactions with police that revealed abuses of power. “It’s been years and years of seeing violence in (the black) community,” he told the Star. “Only the fatal ones get serious media attention, but there are dozens and dozens of incidents that happen that get no attention at all—but they are just as traumatic to the people involved.”

So Baptiste set about designing Cop Watch Toronto, an app that assists users through a combination of videos and alerts: it starts recording on its own when opened, and uploads footage immediately to YouTube once the recording has finished. Simultaneously, it dispatches a message including information about the individual’s location and the video’s web address to the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

Concerned that any app he devised both protect and empower users, Baptiste carefully considered the possible legal and personal ramifications of capturing the police on video, and when customers buy the app, they also get a selection of reference materials outlining their rights.

“We hope that this will reduce the violence,” Baptiste said, “but also, we hope it will help people feel that they have a little bit of control in their life.”

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