Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
As protests against racial police violence have spread across the US, we’ve seen how video captured on mobile devices can help identify misconduct by law enforcement. But such evidence isn’t just useful at a protest, but during all sorts of routine interactions with the police, including traffic stops. That’s why the Siri shortcut “I’m getting pulled over” exists.
Once you load this (free) shortcut onto your iPhone, all you need to do is say “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over” and it will kickstart a chain of events. It will dim your phone, pause any music being played, and start recording video from your front-facing camera. It can also send your current location and a copy of that video to an emergency contact, though you’ll need to confirm a few pop-up messages to complete these steps.
The shortcut itself is the work of Robert Petersen, who first published it in 2018. Petersen has been updating the program since then, though, and the shortcut has gained new attention following protests after the police killing of George Floyd.
Apparently iphones have a police shortcut link and it does a bunch of things when you tell Siri you’re pulled over…?
This is REALLY important if it’s legit, all my iphone ppl need to watch this and share. pic.twitter.com/Dp7E3Uj2So
— DesiBAE aka Big Horchata (@sarcasticstyle) June 10, 2020
Obviously, recording police interactions does not, by itself, stop misconduct and racial discrimination. But it can help name and shame individuals involved. It’s true that not every police interaction needs recording, but that’s no reason not to hit record all the same.
If you’re keen to use the program yourself, there are a few things you’ll have to do first. Importantly, the program isn’t an app you can download from the App Store, but an iOS shortcut that relies on functionality Apple introduced in iOS 12.
So, to get things up and working, you’ll have to first make sure iOS is updated to at least iOS 12. Then, download the Shortcuts app which you can find here on the App store. After that’s done, visit this link on your mobile device from the built-in Safari browser to set-up the shortcut. (Be careful: other browsers won’t work!) You’ll also need to make sure your phone can load unverified shortcuts (go to Settings > Shortcuts and toggle Allow Untrusted Shortcuts to allow this) and give the program access to your location, which you can see how to do here.
Once that’s done you should be good to go, though we recommend giving the shortcut a dry run first as you’ll need to okay certain permissions for it to work properly. When using it, you’ll also need to manually approve certain steps (like sending your video).
There’s also no direct Android equivalent of the program right now, but there are similar apps on the Play Store meant to hel discreetly record video footage of law enforcement.
As Petersen told Business Insider in 2018, the app is essentially the same as the body cameras worn by many police officers. “It seemed to me that if you’re getting pulled over it couldn’t hurt to have a recording of the incident,” said Petersen. “The police these days in many places have body cams, so this could be the civilian equivalent.”