Apps For Monitoring Police


By Michele Bacigalupo

Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes.

The injustice behind the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. sparked an ongoing discussion about the fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown. The nation is in an uproar over the militarization of police and the methods chosen by law enforcement. Though adults are not the only ones who are paying close attention to the aftermath.

Caleb Christian, a 14-year-old high school student from Decatur, Ga., along with his two older sisters Asha and Ima, have developed an app that monitors and reports cases of police brutality. The app is called Five-O, and it allows users to rate and document individual police encounters. It is now available for Android users to download from the mobile company Pinetart, Inc, which the teens founded themselves. A version for the iPhone is expected to be released soon. The siblings anticipate that the app will offer a realistic solution to preventing cases like Ferguson in the future.

The teens began working on the app earlier this year, after speaking with their parents about police brutality. Rather than dwell on the negative, the Christian parents have always taught their children to focus on finding solutions to such problems. The siblings came up with the concept of Five-O as their answer.

At a young age, the siblings cultivated an interest in coding after taking MIT’s k12 Scratch and App Inventor programs. Their parents encouraged them to learn the inner workings of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Five-O, described as a Yelp for cops, allows users to rate officers in a variety of categories, including professionalism and courtesy. Users have the option to write a short description of the event as it transpired. Data collected by the app includes the citizen’s race and age. All of these details are shared with local law enforcement through the app. Subsequently, if legal action is necessary, there will already exist a record of the incident within an accessible system.

Neighborhoods throughout the US are able to check their local law enforcement’s ratings on Five-O. The siblings created the app as a problem-solving device, and their intention is certainly not to embarrass police officers.

“We have friends and family who are with the police, so we try and sympathize with that side,” Ima told the Washington Post.

Five-O is designed to foster knowledge and enlightenment in communities. The teens are optimistic that both citizens and police will see benefits from the app.

“We want to make sure that people can detail their interactions whether they are positive or negative,” Ima added. “The positive interactions should be a model for the negative interactions.”

In the past few years, several apps have been developed that bear similarities to Five-O. The Stop and Frisk Watch app was created in 2012 to hold the NYPD accountable for their stop and frisk policy. Its developer, Jason Van Anden, first designed an app in 2011 called I’m Getting Arrested. The I’m Getting Arrested app was meant to notify individuals about their own arrest as it was going on.

The Stop and Frisk Watch app, on the other hand, is intended for witnesses of a police encounter to capture the incident on video. Other app users are then alerted of the incident, and the videos are reviewed by civil rights organizations.

Like the Five-O app, the Stop and Frisk Watch App contains a “Know Your Rights” section with information pertinent to those being confronted or arrested by police. The section describes how to assert one’s rights during a stressful situation in a polite and justified manner.

In controversial cases, recordings of police incidents on cell phones have been deleted by an officer. The Five-O app and others of its kind were invented for users to prevent this from occurring. Five-O securely stores data and enables users to share it with other users, as well as the community.

The teens currently have two more apps in the works at Pinetart, Inc. Download the Five-O app for Android on the Pinetart website and follow their social media for future updates.