NAACP gets digital to curb police abuse

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is one of the oldest and most influential civil rights organizations in the United States. During its centennial convention in New York this week, it was announced that the venerable organization will be moving into the new digital frontier with the use of video and mobile technology. After much complaining from African American bloggers about the organization's lack of online media use and relevance to engage constituents with its advocacy agenda, it looks like the NAACP is making strides to close its digital gap.

The organization launched its new Rapid Response System though its website last week, which will be "a quick, effective way for citizens to report instances of police misconduct, and to help public safety officials move beyond the “tough on crime” policies that have lost their effectiveness."

Users can send text messages, emails, or video reports of police abuse to the organization either by mobile phone or a web form that can found its website.

"Nationwide, more than 26,000 citizen complaints of police officer use of force were filed with state and local law enforcement agencies in 2002," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous in a statement. "However, because many incidents are not reported, this number does not capture the full magnitude of the problem...[P]ublic safety is a civil and a human right; and so we want a more accurate count of these incidents.”

In an interview yesterday, Monique Morris, NAACP's vice president of advocacy and research, noted that with the recent proliferation of digital activism, such as the videos that appeared online following the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by Oakland police officers (Viewer Discretion is Advised) earlier this year, there is a need to create a uniform space where information about police brutality can be collect and action can be taken to deal with the problem.

"There are so many videos on YouTube that show varying levels of injustices, but we want people to send their videos to us, so we can take the necessary legal and advocacy steps to address the problem in an organized fashion," Morris said. "This idea will help drive our advocacy agenda."

When contacting the NAACP using the forms, users have the option of saying what type of incident occurred (i.e. sexual harassment, false arrest), what type of law enforcement agency was involved (i.e. state, federal) and what was the believed primary reason behind the incident (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia). If this is used the way it is being proposed, along with the organization's long established reputation, it could make an impact in the long term, which can both address injustices still occurring among vulnerable communities while maintaining its reputation with the next generation of social activists.

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