Ferguson violence inspires tech-savvy teenagers to create app that tracks police brutality

Five-O lets people document both good and bad experiences with the police

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Monday 25 August 2014 03:10
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Siblings Caleb, Asha and Ima created the app Five-O
Siblings Caleb, Asha and Ima created the app Five-O

The shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, has sparked two weeks of riots and protests, over which time the police have been criticised for their heavy-handed tactics, their use of tear gas and accusations of pointing guns in citizen journalists’ faces.

These negative interactions between police and civilians are not the only to have occurred in recent times, and three American teenagers in Georgia have been thinking about how to document when the police make bad decisions, but also good ones, too.

“Five-O” is the result; it’s an app that “empowers citizens to rate, review and store the details of their interactions with local law enforcement officers,” in once place, its creators say. The app then aggregates all the scores for a particular county or police officer and grades them on their courtesy and professionalism.

The creators are siblings; Ima Christian, 16, her sister Asha Christian, 15, and their brother Caleb Christian, 14, have created the app as a problem-solving tool, rather than a simple name-and-shame.

“We’ve been hearing about the negative instances in the news, for instance, most recently the Michael Brown case, and we always talk about these issues with our parents,” Ima told Business Insider.

“They always try to reinforce that we should focus on solutions. It’s important to talk about the issues, but they try to make us focus on finding solutions. That made us think – why don’t we create an app to help solve this problem,” she said.

Ideally, the data collected through the app will get to a point where it can be collated and taken to the media, other forms of law enforcement and to other activists in the quest to find a solution to improving police behaviour. But it’s important to the siblings that the positive experiences with police are recorded too, which they hope will serve as positive motivation for other officers.

And “Five-O” isn’t the family’s only project; since Ima and Asha did a week-long app-development course at Gerogia Tech, more apps are being developed under the teenagers’ company, Pinetart Inc.

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