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CREDO Tip: How to record a police traffic stop on your phone

Getting pulled over by the police is stressful. It’s even more stressful if you’re Black, Brown, another person of color or an immigrant. A recent study of nearly 100 million traffic stops found that Black people are 20 percent  more likely to get pulled over. In California, a disproportionate number of people of color are pulled over, arrested and subject to excessive force compared to white people. In the city of Boston alone, 70 percent of people stopped by police are Black. 

And it’s not only profiling; it’s the increased use of force against people of color. Overall, police are twice as likely to threaten the use of force against people of color and twice as likely to use it. We’ve seen this police brutality play out time and again with viral videos of police encounters, as cell phone recordings of these interactions become ubiquitous. 

If you’re pulled over by the police, it may be a good idea to record your interaction. It could protect you and provide evidence in cases of excessive force or brutality, as well as increase accountability of the policing system. Here are some quick tips on how you can record your encounter with police during a traffic stop.

“Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over.”

If you have an iOS device, you can enable a little-known shortcut to trigger a sequence of 18 actions on your phone to begin recording your traffic stop. 

By speaking the command, “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over,” your device will dim the screen, turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode to block incoming calls, and initiate the front-facing camera to begin recording. The shortcut can also send a text message to a predesignated contact letting them know your location and that you’ve been pulled over. After the video is done, your video can be automatically backed up to iCloud or Dropbox.

Here’s how to enable the shortcut:

  1. Confirm your device is running iOS 12 or higher. If not, update your iOS version.
  2. Download and install the Shortcuts app to your device.
  3. Visit this link from your device to install the “I’m getting pulled over” shortcut
  4. If your device prevents you from installing untrusted shortcuts, you’ll need to adjust your settings to allow the shortcut.
  5. Once installed, you can choose your predesignated contact and cloud service to backup your video.

“Hey Google” version for Android users

If you use an Android device, you can create a set of similar actions on your phone. While there isn’t an exact corollary shortcut for Android, you can create routines on your device to perform similar actions. 

Here are some tutorials from Android Central and Lifewire that can get your started.

ACLU’s Mobile Justice app

In 17 states and the District of Columbia, our allies at the American Civil Liberties Union offer a mobile app that puts police accountability in your hands to help you record your interactions with the police and automatically upload the video to the organization.

The app lets you easily record, witness and report police interactions and misconduct right from your phone. The app also lets you add additional information, share your location and include contact information for follow up from the ACLU affiliate. The free app is available for iOS and Android on the ACLU’s website.

Final note about recording the police

Some people may have questions regarding issues that may arise when recording a police interaction, like whether it’s legal to secretly record a police officer, or what to do if an officer gets angry, tells you to stop recording, tries to confiscate your device or other concerns. Our grantees at the Electronic Frontier Foundation believe you have a First Amendment right to record your interaction with the police, as long as you are not interfering with their official duties. 

Here are some additional resources that may address some concerns: