Inspired by the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, three high schoolers from Georgia created a mobile app that allows civilians to record and report interactions with law enforcement officials.
The app is called “Five-O” and it allows people to record both positive and negative interactions with police. Ima Christian, who created the app along with his siblings, said the teens decided to create the app after seeing all the backlash stemming from the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson. The app allows a person to publish concerning interactions with an officer to a local community board, but Christian said civilians can also post positive reviews when an officer comes to their aid.
“If someone has a positive interaction with the police… for example, an officer saved you cat or was very courteous and professional, we want people to be able to document that too,” said Christian. “We hope that law enforcement agencies with positive reviews can help by functioning as role models.”
Aside from simply reporting incidents, the app has other beneficial features, including:
- The ability to see reviews of officers in your area.
- Rate officers and police departments.
- A “Know Your Rights” section with information from the ACLU.
Paul Edlund comments
First off, I’m impressed by the young ages of the kids involved in creating this app. It is great to see young people channeling their feelings about the events in Ferguson into something positive. What is especially great about this app is that it allows people to document both negative and positive interactions with police. This is an important since there are good cops out there whose good actions should be rewarded. It’s great to see something positive like this coming from such a bad situation (Ferguson).
Related source: Huff Post, Buzzfeed
New findings by the FBI suggest that officer-involved excessive force incidents may be more common than we think because of underreported statistics.
The report, commissioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, estimates that there were roughly 400 reports of “justifiable homicide” each year between 2005 and 2012. While victims like Michael Brown dominate the news cycle, it’s worth remembering that on average, police officers “justifiably” kill a black person nearly twice a week, every week, and 21 percent of the time, the victim is under the age of 21. That’s more than double the rate for white victims under the age of 21, which comes in at 8.7 percent.
While those numbers are concerning, they may be vastly unreported. According to University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, many of these statistics are self-reported, and some law enforcement agencies do not report their incidents to the national database.
“About 750 agencies contribute to the database, a fraction of the 17,0000 law enforcement agencies in the United States,” said Alpert. “I’ve looked at records in hundreds of departments, and it’s very rare that you find someone saying, ‘Oh, gosh, we used excessive force.’ In 98.9% of the cases, they are stamped as justified and sent along.”
Alpert added that there is “no national database for this type of information…nobody wanted to fund it and the departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability.”
Criminologist Samuel Walker said the disparity between information known about suspects killed by police compared to information provided when an officer dies in the line of duty is enormous.
“The reason there isn’t [a database of excessive force] is because the information is often embarrassing for police departments,” said Walker. “People should be able to log into a database and identify where their own department stands on this.”
Paul Edlund comments
The most important thing this data brings to light is that police departments classify “excessive force” differently. One police department may not classify tasering a suspect as excessive, while others would.
What’s clear is that excessive force is underreported, and is most prevalent in young minorities. We need to have more universal definitions of excessive force so that it can be better tracked and documented.
Related source: USA Today, Global Grind