Five-0: Teens Create App to Report Police Brutality

FiveO App

If there were any lingering doubts about teaching kids to code, let them be dispelled: Three teenage siblings have created Five-0, an app that uses user data to track and publicize interactions with law enforcement. Inspired by the prevalence of police brutality and the use of undue lethal force by law enforcement, Caleb, Asha, and Ima Christian, ages 14, 15, and 16, hope their app will facilitate transparency and dialogue between police and civilians in communities across the country.

Currently available for Android, Five-0 allows users to create and view incident reports, review their rights, and locate nearby police stations. Incident reports include information on police officers’ gender and race, badge number, and behavior. Once generated, incident reports are public, and searchable by location.

Unlike the recent rollout of SketchFactor, which deals in white urban paranoia couched in supposedly non-racial assessments of “sketchiness,” Five-0 has the potential to effect positive change in urban space. By broadcasting individual experiences with law enforcement in real time, incidents of racial profiling and police harassment can be brought to light as a crowdsourced dataset rather than only as conflicting witness accounts—”he said, she said,” as Caleb terms it.

What’s more, Five-0 data will be driven by its users—the population interacting with law enforcement—and give greater weight to voices too often drowned out by official police accounts. Whether or not police departments and government bodies will be willing to hear this data remains to be seen, but such technology marks a significant shift in what information accompanies run-ins with law enforcement, and at what stage. Imagine if such data had been available for the police officer who killed Mike Brown, or those who killed Sean Bell, or any of the police officers responsible for the hundreds of unarmed victims of state-issued firearms. With a user-generated data trail, maybe these incidents would look less like the reasoned responses of trained professionals and begin to look more like uniformed homicide.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.


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