Three high school students have developed a mobile app to hold police accountable in communities nationwide. The app, Five-O, is a timely development, since the shooting of Michael Brown last weekend sparked a national conversation about police brutality and law enforcement in the U.S.
Caleb, Ima, and Asha Christian, three siblings from Decatur, Georgia, created Five-O for individuals to document and rate their encounters with police officers. With the app, citizens can discuss the reason behind their police encounters, and what occurred during their interactions. Moreover, individuals can transfer the recorded information to law enforcement, which can be used in cases where legal action is necessary. Five-O allows citizens to input relevant demographic information, including age and race, and rank officers’ level of professionalism.
“We’d like to know which regions in the US provide horrible law enforcement services as well as highlight the agencies that are highly rated by their citizens. In addition to putting more power into the hands of citizens when interacting with law enforcement, we believe that highly rated police departments should be used as models for those that fail at providing quality law enforcement services,” explained Ima, the eldest of the three siblings.
The mobile app will be available for download on August 18. The Georgia trio hopes that citizens will find its way to communities across the U.S.
Police accountability is a grave concern for criminal justice advocates, particularly in regards to seeking justice for victims of police violence. On one hand, there is a lack of national data on police shootings, as individual police departments tend to be protective of complaints against officers. On the other hand, quantifying excessive force is difficult, and there are varying standards of what constitutes “reasonable” force.
Apps and social media are promising tools to help fix the lack of data out there, enabling witnesses and victims of police violence to share their accounts when they cannot find justice through official channels. The NYCLU developed another mobile app, Stop-and-Frisk Watch, in 2012. Created in response to the New York Police Department’s contentious stop-and-frisk policy, known for disproportionately targeting African American men, the app lets onlookers record video of police misconduct and send them to NYCLU servers.