ATLANTA — Three Georgia teens have created an Android app called Five-O to document police abuse of authority that has been downloaded more than 10,000 times. The three are now at work on an iPhone app.
Ima, 16, Asha, 15, and their brother Caleb Christian, 14, developed the app in response to the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August. The teens, who live in Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, had been concerned about police interaction with young black men long before that.
“We had been hearing about all of the cases [of shootings of young African-Americans] many months before the Trayvon Martin incident,” Ima said. “We’ve had family members who’ve gone through similar incidents.”
Their app, available from the Google Play Store, lets users document interactions with police — whether good or bad. The app aggregates the police reviews for each county.
Users can check a local area to see incidents reported there and view an overall grade for police in the area.
The teens hope good reviews will provide motivation for law enforcement to treat people well and motivate entire police departments to improve.
The three have a solutions-oriented approach.
“We were all comfortable with the idea of creating something using computer science and using code, so the idea of developing an app wasn’t that unusual for us, especially when we started thinking of how we could solve a problem,” Ima said.
Their mother, a manager at technology company EarthLink, had encouraged them from an early age to learn programming.
They were introduced to computer science in an after-school robotics program and played with Scratch in middle school. Developed at MIT Media Lab, Scratch allows users to create animated characters and move them around using simple drag-and-drop functions. Offered free online, it helps kids learn to reason and think creatively, according to the website.
Designed for kids 8 to 16, it can be used at home, at school and in informal learning environments.
The siblings say most of their coding experience took place outside school, although Ima and Asha took some computer science and web design courses in high school and a summer course for teens on building Android apps at Georgia Tech.
On their own, the three scoured YouTube tutorials and did Google searches to find information.
“It was a climb to get there, but it’s really fulfilling once you build the app and see your product,” Caleb said.
The siblings have two other apps listed on their Pinetart Inc. website.
The Five-O app also has a Know Your Rights section, which answers questions users might have, such as “What should I do if officers come to my house?”
“Ask them if they have a warrant,” Five-O advises.
The app is named after a slang term for police popularized by the 1970s TV show “Hawaii Five-O.”
In DeKalb County, Ga., where the siblings live, the police get a grade of C on Five-O.
The reviews on Five-O for this area include:
Aug. 1, 2014
Dekalb county sheriff’s dept served a warrant at my apartment at 2AM in the morning. I refused to open door until 911 confirmed that officers were legit. We did not recognize anyone by the name given to us. Officers were polite and courteous but my kids and I were still scared.
Aug. 15, 2104
Pulled over by ga state trooper for expired tags … he was cool … half way decent
“You just have to identify a problem in the field that you’re interested in and start thinking about solutions,” Asha said. “That was the first step for us.”