What is Tallahassee Bystander? App inspired by BLM records interactions with police

Tallahassee launches new voice-activated app to stream police interactions with PD and contacts after three officer-involved shootings


                            What is Tallahassee Bystander? App inspired by BLM records interactions with police
A screenshot of the App store image for Talahassee Bystander (Apple App Store) and a BLM protest (David Ryder/Getty Images)

As police-led violence and violence against cops, is on the rise, the city of Tallahassee has come up with a rather interesting solution to the problem - an app. The city unveiled 'Tallahassee Bystander' on August 24, it is an app that allows anyone to record police interactions hands-free and even share it with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD). The best part - the video is shared anonymously so users can't be identified under any circumstances.

The solution builds on an already existing one - social media footage. As violence between police and the public has continued to escalate, numerous instances have made their way to Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter. For example, in late July a video emerged showing an Atlanta cop kicking a woman who was handcuffed, and on the ground. In early July, a video went viral showing a New York cop punching a woman in the throat while she was being arrested. 

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The violence isn't only one way, numerous cops have been injured and killed on duty this year after being attacked by members of the public. In late June, Officer Gordon Beesley in Colorado was shot and killed, with the police saying he was "targeted because he was wearing an Arvada Police uniform and a badge." In most cases, perpetrators of violence have been caught thanks to social media footage. The TPD now hopes to make that process easier by sending the footage straight to them, with Tallahassee Bystander.



 

 

What is Tallahassee Bystander?

The "first of its kind" mobile app is available for both Android and iPhones. It's free to use and can be voice-activated, and doesn't require registration so users remain anonymous. Users can simply say "Bystander, record," and the app will begin to record video. The footage is saved on the phone and send to a secure TPD server. Users can also select three emergency contacts who will receive the video. The app does more than just record though. 

Reportedly, users can use it to inform the TPD of an active situation, like a shooting. The TPD can then reach out to request more information. "It provides everybody another level of comfort, another level of interaction with the police department, and, quite frankly, it helps our citizens and it helps the police department,” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said. The app was revealed to the public during a press conference on August 25. 

Speaking at the conference, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said, "We are here for our community. We want to listen and continue to collaborate on ways to strengthen our relationships with the community, and the launch of this app really highlights that." He also highlighted the voice-activation feature, saying, "We wanted to make sure this was hands-free, voice-activated... so it’s safer for the officer, and it’s certainly safer for the citizen as well." 

Screenshots of the Tallahassee Bystander app on the Apple App Store.

 

Born from the BLM movement

The app's origins go back to the summer of 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement swept through the city. In June, activists met with law enforcement leaders to discuss trust and transparency. Activists demanded an app with voice activation, so it would reduce the risk of police shooting at people who may have been reaching for their phones. They worked together to create Tallahassee Bystander, with a budget of $50,000 allocated by the City Commission.

The city's Technology and Innovation Department worked with New-York based firm Quadrant 2 and the More Than a Name non-profit group to create the app. It's just one of the several steps Tallahassee has taken in recent months. The city also recently established a Citizens Advisory Committee, the Tallahassee Police Review Board, a mental health response team, and conducted a full audit of its use of force policy. 

The changes were brought on by a series of police-involved shootings in weeks. It was the first time the city recorded such incidents since 2018, but their controversial nature pushed BLM protesters to demand change. In all three cases, grand juries determined that the use of force was justified, much to the anger of several residents. 

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