Combining its century-old mission of fighting for equality with the instantaneous reach of modern-day technology, the NAACP has launched a program that lets people use their cell phones to report incidents of police misconduct.
The "rapid response system" was officially launched Monday as part of the annual convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This year, the organization is marking the centennial of its founding in New York City in 1909.
The system allows people who capture photos or video of incidents of alleged police misconduct on their cell phones to send it through a Web browser to the organization or upload it through a computer. A form will then be transmitted to the sender, who can use it to provide more information about an incident.
"Technology has basically put a video camera in the pocket of every child in this country over the age of 12 and most grown-ups as well," said Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.
He said the information gathered would be used in several ways. Some video could be used immediately, to present footage for a situation the organization wants to highlight. Another purpose would be to compile a database of incidents that could show a history of discriminatory patterns and practices in particular law enforcement jurisdictions — information the group could take to the Justice Department.
The head of the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, praised the NAACP's dedication to championing equality but acknowledged the work left to be done.
"We must resist the temptation to conclude that our nation has fulfilled its promise of equality based on one moment or on one election," he said, in reference to Barack Obama being elected president.
"The efforts to harmonize our laws with our best ideals is not yet done," he said.
Monique Morris, the group's vice president of advocacy and research, said the ease of reporting an incident will help give a clearer picture of the prevalence of misconduct.
"What this database will provide is a more accurate account in real time of what's happening in our communities," she said.