Professor Creates App to Take Fear Out of Police Traffic Stops - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Professor Creates App to Take Fear Out of Police Traffic Stops

by David Pluviose

Fear, mistrust, and prejudice have seemingly marked many encounters between police and African-American males — leading to deadly consequences. 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, which 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.

Dr. Juan Gilbert

According to Gilbert, Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor & Chair, Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida, 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.

On the driver’s side, pertinent documents would be loaded electronically and viewable within the app. In a routine traffic stop, an officer could see on his or her end a driver’s license and other pertinent information and run routine warrant checks, etc. Ostensibly, neither officer nor driver would have to leave their vehicles unless a warrant check revealed an outstanding warrant, for instance.

“We’ve heard time and time again. ‘Why did you shoot the guy? I was afraid. I feared.’ If you are in your vehicle, and they’re in their vehicle, what are you fearing at that point? I’m trying to take the fear out of the equation,” Gilbert says.

Statistics bear out that perceptions of bias against Blacks when it comes to police interaction have some basis in reality. Part of the abstract of a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper titled, “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” written Dr. Roland Fryer, a Harvard University economics professor, reads: “On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities.”

However, interestingly, the abstract 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.”

Indeed, it is the national conversation over police-involved killings of Black men that prompted Gilbert, and his majority-Black team of students within UF’s Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, to seek a technological solution to a national issue.

Therefore, the thinking behind the development of the Traffic Stop 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 says.

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.

“Now, if the person’s tag comes up — they’re wanted for robbery — that’s a different scenario. What I’m talking about [is] the 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. That’s not at all what I’m saying. [In] one scenario, I’m reducing that conflict and minimizing that fear. I think it will interject interesting conversations nationally and I think it will make a difference.”

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. For more information, visit www.virtualtrafficstop.com.

David Pluviose can be reached at dpluviose@diverseeducation.com.

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Calling the Police on People of Color Over the past few weeks, I – as I am sure is the case with many other socially conscious people – have become overwhelmed with what seems is the increasing number of racial-tinged incidents that seem to be occurring with unrelenting ferocity. Whit...
Incidences of Campus Racial Intolerance Spark Calls for Change Dr. Karla Holloway is distressed. The James B. Duke Professor Emerita of English at Duke University, who retired last year, doesn’t like how a senior administrator used his power and influence to cause two campus coffee shop contract workers to lo...
The Case for Diversity I'm a privileged, old White guy who won the ovary lottery. Consequently, I was able to grow up in the right ZIP code and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to me by sheer dumb luck. As a result, I wound up being an academic surgeon and w...
Billionaire Chen Yidan Uses His Resources to Focus on Education HONG KONG — He is sometimes called the Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates of China. Vicky Colbert, Chen Yidan and Dr Carol Dweck And like Zuckerberg and Gates, Chen Yidan — also known as Charles Chen — has used his financial empire to make educatio...
Semantic Tags: