App lets citizens tattle on police. How Johns Creek is bringing officers and the public together

Fri, 2015-11-20 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Police officers are under the public’s microscope. After high-profile brutality cases, people are quick to reach for their smartphones to record any questionable interaction with law enforcement.

Now a new app makes it even easier for people to launch civil rights investigations. Smart cities are taking a more proactive approach, using technology to build relationships between officers and the public they serve, promoting trust, accountability and teamwork.

Automated civil rights complaints
Abuse cases have traditionally came to light when video goes viral after being uploaded to YouTube or if a television station runs the footage as part of a story. A new app, available for people in several states, cuts out the middlemen by sending video of questionable police behavior directly to civil rights lawyers.

The app was first launched by the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in New Mexico. It helps users record video and file incident reports. It also allows them to alert other users nearby when they see questionable activity. It built the app after more than 400 people expressed interest in using something like it.

The group launched the app to help people guard against police brutality at the hands of border patrol agents, which it says operate with “a shocking lack of oversight and accountability.” The ACLU says border agents have killed at least 42 people in New Mexico since 2010.

After launching in New Mexico, other ACLU chapters have quickly followed. It now works in nine other states and Washington, D.C.

Building relationships with the community
But the app is reactive. Smarter cities are actively working on proactive strategies to end the perceived war between police and citizens, building a more collaborative, nurturing relationship.

Council Associate Partner SunGard Public Sector is making great strides in this area, particularly with its ONEsolution system that brings citizen engagement directly into the tools that police and emergency dispatchers use every day.

The Johns Creek Police Department in Georgia, not far from Atlanta, provides a great example of what’s possible with the tool. Police can share emergency and public safety information through various social media channels — information that tends to get ignored by the nearby big-city media. The department’s own app feeds into the system, giving the public information about wanted subjects and allowing them to provide tips that help police find them and solve crimes.

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