As It Happens

New app to help curb racial profiling by police

The mobile tool will automatically send a recording of what happened during a traffic stop, before the phone is confiscated.
Mbye Njie, right, and coder Martin Davis. (Mbye Njie)

Today, officials in Cincinnati indicted a campus police officer on murder charges. This comes after Sam DuBose was shot in the head during a traffic stop two weeks ago. 

Deaths like these - the killing of unarmed black men and women by white law enforcement - have many people calling for change. Atlanta's Mbye Njie thinks he might have an answer. He's developing an app that aims to curb racial profiling by police. It's called Legal Equalizer

"When you open it up, it's going to record automatically, so you don't have to press a record button," Njie tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. 

Legal Equalizer is part of a growing trend of technology aimed at keeping an eye on the police. Njie's app will work on a few fronts: it will not only record the encounter, it will also automatically text three pre-appointed people to inform them their loved one has been pulled over. 

As for the recording, it will automatically be sent to those same three people, as soon as the app is closed, the phone is turned off, or even if it is damaged. 

Legal Equalizer also provides legal information useful to the user. Njie is aiming to use voice recognition technology to make using the app as easy as possible. 

"So if the officer says, 'Here's why you're pulled over,' the app then pulls it up right then and there," explains Njie. 

(Mbye Njie)

He believes his app would have made a difference in the case of Sandra Bland. "It haunts me, because I honestly believe it would have made a difference had she had this app," he says. 

In the Bland case, he says the app would have texted her mother on her behalf. It also would have advised her that she had a legal obligation to step out of the car. 

Having a recording adds to the narrative of these encounters, explains Njie. Even in cases where there are body cameras on an officers's uniform, it's not always helpful to families, who don't necessarily have access to the video. 

"Whenever an incident happens, [police] get to hold the video. So these families are sitting there wondering what happened to their loved ones,"

When asked whether an app like this would put the onus on the victims of racial profiling rather than the officers responsible, Njie says that "it's going to hold [officers] accountable. That 10 per cent of officers that are terrible make the other 90 per cent look bad, they're going to be called out. If you're a good officer, these videos are going to show you doing a wonderful job."