The social reckoning that sparked a national conversation around police brutality and racial justice last year became part of the origin story for many companies and their initiatives.
Much of this was in response to George Floyd’s murder that occurred in Minneapolis, MN and as a result, three men living in the center of this movement decided to take matters into their own hands to help protect their communities.
Late last year, Mychal Frelix, Andre Creighton and Jazz Hampton — co-founders of TurnSignl — left their corporate jobs to develop an idea around an app that protects both drivers and police officers during routine traffic stops by recording interactions that are guided by a lawyer on-call in real time.
The app was developed in conjunction with both local Minnesota police chiefs and attorneys to help advise on the best way for this technology to exist. The premise of the app is to ultimately make these interactions less intense by giving all parties involved a level of safety and comfortability that puts everyone at ease.
“After George Floyd, the nation had a different level of reckoning that we all saw and we were at the epicenter of it,” co-founder Hampton tells AfroTech. “As we came together with co-founders and some of our other advisors here in the Twin Cities [in Minnesota], we thought that putting an attorney in the car to help would be the best way to get people home safe while protecting their rights and that’s what we did.”
While Black and people of color’s unfortunate encounters with police brutality fueled the inspiration for the app, TurnSignl welcomes people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities to use its services to protect themselves in these situations.
“When we created the app, we were inspired to move based on the reaction of our community but we know that the solution is applicable to so many other people,” Hampton says. “[It’s about] giving comfort to those people. It’s important for all folks, but we know early adopters who will grab ahold of TurnSignl are people of color.”
When users subscribe to the app, they can either use a phone button or voice command to gain 24/7/365 access to a TurnSignl approved attorney who will provide them with legal advice while the app records the entire traffic-related event. All recordings are then stored and encrypted into users’ own personal cloud for future reference.
By combining advanced technology with a business outlook and commitment to social justice, TurnSignl offers everyday people a solution that has the potential to bridge the gap between law enforcement and citizens who are weary of their mission to protect and serve.
According to TurnSignl’s co-founders, the app’s developments are currently based on three different personas that people often embody in traffic-stop scenarios:
- Targeted Tony – who represents Black and people of color who are targeted by police at disproportionate rates.
- Protective Paul/ Paula – who represents someone that’s worried about their child’s well-being who could potentially be targeted based on their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
- Careful Courtney – who represents someone that’s still weary of law enforcement in situations where they may be all alone and concerned about their safety regardless of their race, gender or social status.
With all of these personas, it is TurnSignl’s mission to deescalate these situations and create a frictionless environment that helps reduce driver’s anxiety and makes police officers feel more comfortable when approaching their vehicles.
“Deescalation is a big part of our app and so we want to make sure that when we’re going into these markets and speaking to police officers and lawyers, there’s this cohesive view around [minimizing] interactions,” co-founder Frelix tells us.
Outside of the app’s technology, TurnSignl also provides its users with specially-made decals that notifies officers that the driver of the vehicle they’ve stopped is a TurnSignl subscriber. The purpose of these stickers is to assure officers that they will have easy interactions with a driver before they even approach their car, which is where these events typically start.
“We’re excited about the level of confidence police will have in TurnSignl, attorneys on the platform and drivers so when they approach cars they won’t be scared or nervous,” Hampton shares. “If they’re less stressed out, the interaction will be too.”
The app launched mid-May and as of late last month it had over 300 downloads with a 30% conversion rate amongst users. The subscription-based service costs users $9.99/month, but the app also offers users the option to qualify for a free subscription if their financial situation permits it, no questions asked. Doing so ensures that there are no barriers preventing people from accessing this forward-thinking technology.
The most exciting piece of feedback that the app has received so far is that other companies are interested in offering TurnSignl to all of their employees. These companies are now being currently onboarded onto the platform to show their workers that they care about their safety and well-being.
TurnSignl’s goal doesn’t stop and start with ensuring safety during these traffic-stop situations. Their hope going forward is that the app will become a widely-used resource and catalyst that will resolve tensions between law enforcement, citizens and improve trust in this relationship.
“We want to be able to create a system of accountability that’s not just on police officers, but drivers [as well]. That’s why that recording becomes really important because officers have their body cams, and now citizens have their cameras to record with an attorney there,” Frelix says. “So it really just holds everyone to a standard with a third-party that leans a bit more closely to the driver’s side to make sure everything is safe.”
For more information about TurnSignl, visit its website.