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Student managing the project: Wilborn P. Nobles III

Other students involved: Aryanna Prasad, Elbis Bolton

Adviser: James Shelledy

Category: Watchdog

Purpose: With the continuation of police misconduct and the ubiquity of social media platforms, millennials have a unique opportunity to hold discriminating officials accountable by reporting these transgressions to a validated platform. This phenomenon requires a more streamlined digital curation to reinforce how journalists, communities, and organizations can collaborate to hold society’s public officials accountable. We’re working to provide that system by creating an app for users to share their experiences with police misconduct directly with newsrooms and organizations, working to address public issues. We also will encourage use of the app to document heroism and exemplary behavior by police.

Process: Our app will provide a form for users to enter their name (optionally) and the police misconduct information, then they can simply tap submit. Users can optionally post a video or audio of the situation in real time without notifying the officer committing the act by sending a signal to their phone. The app will be GPS-enabled to gather their location, which is important if users are submitting this information in real time. User-submitted information can be solely text or multimedia. This information will create a system of aggregated evidence for use in newsrooms covering the community, courtrooms, and the local (or national) police force.

Social Media Use: This app will use the APIs of several social media platforms, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. People use social media to share information of interest with their online circle, but this also lets users share experiences publicly to inform a larger community. With this option, users can post to their social media to allow their friends to spread the news to a larger community.

Community Involvement: There’s a low likelihood that someone experiencing police misconduct in real time will react by using their phones, but accounts of witnesses viewing these events firsthand spread across social media. User-submitted information will automatically be sent to the emails of newsrooms and social justice organizations that sign up for the app. This will allow newsrooms the opportunity to communicate with witnesses to ensure the media provides a complete and unbiased narrative. We will work together with Manship to communicate with local newsrooms like The Advocate and WAFB, as well as social justice organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and The National Police Accountability Project (NPAP), to improve the connection between these groups and the community.

Limitations: Certain states like Massachusetts and Illinois make it illegal for individuals to openly record police officers. In this case, we will simply block the user from using the recording feature based on where they live.

Measure for Success: We plan to track our success with the number of users for the app. We also plan to track the number of submissions and cases recorded. The number of newsrooms and organizations willing to use the app will also play a role in the measurement of the platform’s success.

Why this matters to the community: Police discrimination is a national issue, but victims may feel isolated and disenfranchised without the ability to report these crimes. It is clear the documentation of these events are scattered, and it took time for news of the stories of Eric Garner and Michael Brown to spread beyond local media outlets without reporting based on the sources who recorded these events. We want to deliver this information directly to organizations working to inform society about systemic issues that impact our democracy and bring justice to those who have suffered from the crime of police brutality.

Timetable: Scheduled for completion by April 20