This week has been a tumultuous one for Americans who possess any concern for the persistent levels of both police abuse and civilian crime in land of the free and home of the brave. In many of our poorest and most underprivileged communities, violent crimes go unreported by residents, often resulting in revenge killings and reprisals instead of arrests.
This lack of reporting stems from centuries of mistrust built by a racist criminal justice system which ensures that bad cops are protected by the supposed "good cops" and their allies in district attorney offices.
The Need for a Tech Disruption in Crime Reporting
As the bridges of trust between poor communities and government disintegrate further, mobile applications have been critical in documenting, communicating and magnifying the problems of civilian violent crime and police abuse.
Infamous spraying of peaceful UC Davis demonstrators by cops in 2011
2015 Ferguson Slaying of unarmed Michael Brown was protested. Authorities met protestors with an incredibly militarized Riot Police
However, what if mobile technology could be used more regularly to report crime committed by both civilians and taxpayer-funded law enforcement?
Broken Windows policing is a strategy of policing predominantly low income, urban communities in which the potentially violent criminals are forcibly removed from communities before they actually commit violent crimes. The logic of the strategy rests in the theory/reality that criminals start with smaller infractions l before graduating to more serious crimes.
By documenting, geo-locating and disrupting "low-level" criminal activity, police departments claim to have lowered crime in American cities like as New York City with their famed Compstat crime data base tool.
Mobile technology would expand data collection on crime and corruption from the mere view and interest of law enforcement. It would allow anyone with phone and a wifi connection to report crimes and suspicious activity.
And like the Broken Windows strategy, a public record would allow for law enforcement and activists to spot a statistical trend of minor infractions before they become larger and more severe criminal realities.
JUSTUS- Creating a Public Record of Police and Civil Servant Activity
Kulchah's Hypothetical App Idea #1: JUSTUS - Creating a User-Generated Public Record of Police & Civil Servant Activity
At the moment, the civilian public has no data tools which are independent of police departments and which document police and civil servant activity.
In 2016, we do not have an accurate statistic regarding the number stops made in which no weapon was not found. We do not know how many times men and women have been sexually assaulted during police stops. How many people have experienced excessive force or verbal profanities? How many have witnessed possible ethics violations?
An application such as JUSTUS could be used to create a public record of police activity, whether benign, suspect or abusive. As seen in documentaries such as "Policing the Police" by PBS Frontline, so often, very routine and yet unconstitutional activity goes unreported by police officers.
This application gives both the public and law enforcement a user-generated and crowdsourced public record of police activity. This record is supplemented by user submitted photos, video and medical records.
Guardian- Real time Reporting of Crime and Corruption to Activists and Law Enforcement
On the other side of the coin, mobile technology can be used to document criminal activity committed by individuals outside of law enforcement. An application like Guardian could be a web application which encourages citizens to report suspicious activity and crime in their community.
Such an app could ask for photos, video, an address and a short 150 character description of what happened. Registered non-profits and authorities would be able to sign up for notifications of anonymous tips placed on the app.
Civilians could use such a mobile responsive web application so that anonymous tips are placed, allowing illicit criminal activity to be reported without any fear of revenge attacks for "snitching." Such a web application would secure the identity of the informant so that it can be protected from both criminals and rogue/abusive police officers.
Hypothetical App Idea #2: GUARDIAN - Anonymous Crime Reporting
Turning to Tech for Solutions
In both of our hypothetical mobile suggestions, the public flow of information and documentation, would provide a real reality of what has happened, is happening and is statistically likely to happen again.
Both ideas protect Americans who already pay taxes in oder to keep them and their families safe.
They also assist police forces in protecting and serving their communities with greater efficiency. For in very real time, they can receive more tips and notifications from civilians about suspicious and criminal activity in their neighborhoods.
In the same way that free speech is always a good thing, so too is open information and public records. Armed with more data, activists and politicians can push for and enact more efficient taxpayer-funded initiatives and policies.
As many turn to social media as a means of expressing their anger and of seeking community, now is also the time for substantive and disruptive solutions. Now is the time for innovators to do what the state will not.
The cool thing in such a scenario is that tech always wins, moving faster than the powerful and the privileged.
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts. He primarily covers startup, tech and small business ecosystems and resources.