You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the awful events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. Clashes between police and reportedly peaceful protestors, and even reporters, have been going on for a week now in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. The situation has gotten so out of hand that the governor has called in the National Guard. I can’t count the number of articles and op-eds I’ve read in the last week about police brutality, especially against black suspects (and non-suspects), and about the abuse of authority by police in general. It’s not hard to imagine how the situation in Ferguson could be a precursor to a police state, a dystopian vision that plays out in a sci-fi show like Continuum. A lot of people have a lot of ideas about what to do in response to the violence in Ferguson, which is another article (or twelve) in itself, but three teenagers came up with a pretty cool idea: they created an app that gives users the opportunity to rate their local police departments, as well as any individual interactions they have with the police.
“Five-O” (not to be confused with the crossword game already available on iTunes or the Hawaii Five-O fan app) released two days ago. You can download the Android version here. It’s a lot like “rate my professor” or Yelp, and allows people to share their experiences with police in anything from a routine traffic stop to a violent encounter. In addition to sharing the information, it’s a way for people who have suffered police brutality to get their stories and information told around the world.
The creators are three teenage siblings, Caleb (14), Asha (15), and Ima (16) Christian. They’re responding directly to the Michael Brown case, but also to advice given to them by their parents: “It’s important to talk about the issues, but they try to make us focus on finding solutions.” And while nothing can directly solve this problem, an app is at least a step in the right direction, especially when it comes to collecting data that can then be dispersed among activists and the media.
“We’d like to know which regions in the US provide horrible law enforcement services as well as highlight the agencies that are highly rated by their citizens. In addition to putting more power into the hands of citizens when interacting with law enforcement, we believe that highly rated police departments should be used as models for those that fail at providing quality law enforcement services,” Ima told For Harriet. Five-O is the third app released by their company Pinetart Inc.
This is a great idea, and it’s impossible not to applaud three teenagers who have been galvanized to do something, while most people only sit around and despair. The police brutality vigils that took place last week are all well and good, but are more of a community expression than a solution. While Five-O certainly has its limitations—chief among them being that all rating systems attract extreme personalities and trolls who like to lambast anything and everything they can—it’s a step in the right direction when it comes to public accountability. Although when it comes to that, London’s idea of having their police wear cameras is becoming more and more appealing.