The recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have thrust the topic of police brutality to the forefront of public discourse. Two Georgetown students have responded with an app called SWAT, which stands for “Safety With Accountability & Transparency.” Among other things, the app enables a user to file an official complaint about police violence with their local police department in real time.
SWAT is the brainchild of Georgetown students Brandon Anderson and Joseph Gruenbaum, who cite the 422,000 incidents of police violence every year in the U.S. as their motivation. The mission of the SWAT app is also personal to Anderson, who lost his partner and high-school friend to police brutality. (The police officers involved were not prosecuted because of lack of evidence.)
Back in October, Anderson recounted his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, where he witnessed police officers destroying phones.
“Phones are smashed or confiscated, videos are deleted, and voices are silenced,” according to SWAT’s website. “And in most neighborhoods, filing a complaint about a police officer is difficult and intimidating.”
One of the features of the app allows users to live-stream video to secure servers with a tap of a button, so footage isn’t at risk of being lost if the device is damaged. Another feature educates users about their local rights as a victim of or witness to police misconduct. The third feature enables users to quickly file a complaint and send it to their police department, along with their current location, photos, and time and date stamps.
Data from the app will feed into a database that will aggregate metadata about reported incidents of police violence across the U.S. The goal of the SWAT database is to equip policymakers, academics and others with a real-time view of police violence.
SWAT was recently the runner-up for the 2014 Media Rise Pitch Night in Washington, D.C. The $500 prize will be used to make T-shirts and keychains as gifts for donors to a future crowdfunding campaign to help build the mobile app.
Anderson and Gruenbaum currently run a 10-member team, but they have plans to hire product designers and marketing strategists.
The SWAT app is currently in development, but the website has a sign-up form for those interested in getting updates or becoming a beta tester.