Could this mobile app do more to combat police abuse than body cameras?

Thursday I wrote about the Department of Justice’s $75 million body camera grant program for local governments, concluding that there are more immediate steps the Obama administration can take to combat police abuse:

Instead, the federal government can do a lot of good for police transparency by monitoring state and local police departments abuse of citizens’ rights in filming the police. Despite the fact that the First Amendment protects the practice in all 50 states, hundreds of Americans are arrested each year for filming the police in public during routine encounters. Even individuals who aren’t arrested for filming cops are routinely harassed for doing so, such as the man who uploaded Eric Garner’s death on YouTube.

As chance would have it, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just rolled out an application to combat such abuse called “Mobile Justice”. Originally released by the civil rights group’s California chapter last Friday, the app allows users to record video of police encounters and immediately send it to their local ACLU chapter. This is a particularly important feature considering that cops often demand citizens delete the video of their encounters on the streets.

Furthermore, the app includes a “witness” function, notifying other users within a three-mile radius of an encounter to serve as additional observers. As of Wednesday, the app had been downloaded 50,000 times.

Ultimately, I would not be surprised if apps like these — and smartphones in general — do more to combating police abuse than body cameras ever will. After all, cops ultimately control when to turn on their body cameras, and police departments may cover up abuse by refusing to release footage, but they have no control over when a citizen will start filming. With digital cameras so ubiquitous today, it is finally possible to watch the watchmen, and apps like the ACLU’s make it even easier.

Reprinted with permission from Rare.

Conservative Party Wins Shock UK Victory

On Friday morning, the last of the returns came in from the 2015 British General Election. Defying expectations across the board, the ruling Conservative Party gained 25 seats to bring their total number of MPs to 331, landing them a 5-seat majority in the House of Commons and returning David Cameron to Downing Street as Prime Minister for a second term. This is the first majority government for the Conservative party since 1992, and the first time they have increased their number of seats while in government since 1983.

Most of the Conservative’s gains came at the expense of the centrist Liberal-Democrats, who were practically annihilated, losing 49 of their previous 57 seats. The Lib-Dem’s most humiliating loss came from losing a staggering number of their electoral deposits—£500 candidate filing fees that are only returned if the candidate manages to win over 5% of the vote. In 2010 they lost none, in 2015, they’ve lost £170,000 worth.

The most shocking development of Thursday night was the left-leaning Scottish National Party’s near-sweep of Scotland, a traditional Labour stronghold. The SNP gained 56 seats, winning all but three constituencies in Scotland to become the third-largest party in the entire UK. A large part of the SNP’s success is likely due to the increased exposure it has had over the past year due to the Scottish Independence Referendum in September 2014. The resulting debate over Scotland’s place within the Union left many Scottish voters, even those who opposed independence seeking more devolved powers from the Westminster Parliament. Additionally, Labour likely suffered due to its supporting the “No” campaign during the referendum and being perceived to be part of the status quo by ineffectively opposing David Cameron and the Tories.

Labour’s defeat at the hands of both the Conservatives and the SNP marks their worst election result since 1987, and 41 years since they have achieved a majority without the more centrist Tony Blair at their helm. Many blame Ed Miliband’s leadership, which took the party to the left, for Labour’s poor performance. It would not be surprising to see Miliband’s successor move Labour to the center-left policies of Tony Blair, who, like Bill Clinton, emphasized centrism to bring the party to a landslide victory. Interestingly, Blair is the only Labour leader in 40 years to deliver a majority.

Despite winning over 2.5 million votes across Britain, right-leaning, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage only won one seat. Farage who lost his, resigned from party leadership, joining Ed Miliband of Labour and Nick Clegg of the Liberal-Democrats in a series of high-profile defeats for the other three parties. One of this election’s most revealing trends is the huge increase in third party voting. Because Britain, like the United States, has a First-Past-the-Post voting system, the influence of these parties is muted.
Read the rest at Rare…