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A newly-developed app aims to allow both police officer and driver to stay in their vehicles for routine traffic stops, injecting a level of safety for both parties. Hopefully, the app will lower the amount of violent cop-driver incidents.
Dr. Juan Gilbert and his team at the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering at the University of Florida have developed the Traffic Stop app.
According to Gilbert, as envisioned, the Traffic Stop app would be available to citizens for free and downloadable through the Apple App Store or Google Play. The cost would be on the law enforcement side but insurance companies and others interested in the app’s benefits could step up and provide funding, according to diverseeducation.com.
On the driver’s side, his driver documents would be loaded electronically and viewable within the app. In a routine traffic stop, an officer could see on his or her interface a driver’s license and other pertinent information and run routine warrant checks, etc. This way, neither officer nor driver would have to leave their vehicles unless a warrant check revealed an outstanding warrant, for instance.
Statistics bear out that perceptions of bias against Blacks when it comes to police interaction have some basis in reality. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper titled, “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” written by Dr. Roland Fryer, from Harvard University’s school of economics, states: “On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than 50% more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police.”
However, interestingly, the document adds, “On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”
This much talked-of issue, police-involved killings of Black men, prompted Gilbert and his majority-black team of students to seek a technological solution to a national issue. Therefore, the thinking behind the development of the app was that it would impact “the national conversation. That’s what we were deliberately looking for. So I do think this technology will impact that national conversation. I do think this technology will add a safer environment,” Gilbert explained.
However, some of the early feedback Gilbert has received on the police side of the equation is that police are trained to interact with citizens. Such technology would potentially curb the community relations aspect of police work. Gilbert insists that the potential use of the Traffic Stop app only touches a single aspect of police work.
“If the person’s tag comes up and the cop finds that they’re wanted for robbery that’s a different scenario. What I’m talking about is a routine stop, for speeding, running a red light, or I’m just routinely pulling every third car over, whatever the case may be. It’s routine. There is no need to put yourself at risk. As such, we’re providing you with the necessary capability to remain safe and to minimize that fear. It doesn’t eliminate the conversation of police and community engagement.”
Gilbert says that he hopes to finish development of a Traffic Stop app prototype this month, and in April, identify pilot testing sites for the app, with a goal of launching the Traffic Stop app this summer.