Channing Harris, a tech entrepreneur out of Chicago wanted to make it easier for community members to report interactions with police, so he created “Excuse Me Officer,” an app which functions like Yelp. The app is set to launch on December 5.
“I want to show the hero cops and the bad cops. The media [want] to focus on the bad story so much that the hero cops get ignored,” he said in an interview with DNAinfo.
Harris, who is Black, works with two business partners in development and promotion; Christopher Hutchinson, who serves as chief technology officer, and Mike Shaw, head of marketing.
To aid in user-friendliness, the app allows users to upload the date, time and location of their interaction, as well as a summary of events. The app also encourages users to upload any videos or photos taken at the scene. The information is then made available to browse, sorted by location and police districts.
To date, almost 60,000 reports have been uploaded–amounting to so many that Harris is not sure all of it will be digested, he tells the news outlet.
But the app’s main goal is to encourage and promote transparency and build trust. It’s a lofty goal, especially after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, which resulted in a DOJ probe of the police department, uncovering reports of corruption and mistreatment.
Harris says he hopes local law enforcement will use the app for feedback and suggestions.
As the son of a police dispatcher, Harris said he’s able to relate to both sides, but one constant remains. “I still experience the everyday Black struggle,” he said.
After a close female friend was reportedly severely beaten by an off-duty officer, suffering a ruptured appendix last October, Harris created a Facebook page where he encouraged followers to report their experiences with law enforcement. The incident planted the seed for the creation of Excuse Me Officer.
The app recently placed first at South Side Pitch, a competition hosted by the University of Chicago’s Law School. As winners, the group received $4,000 in seed money.
Harris says he hopes the app will expand worldwide, but relayed the importance of Chicago as home base.
“Chicago probably needs it the most. I don’t know if there would be the same amount of passion [in the project] if I didn’t know it was so needed here,” he said.
SOURCE: DNAinfo | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty