If you’re African-American, have you ever pondered “How black was I driving when I got pulled over?” Moreover, did you ever feel like an officer really wanted to say “Do you realize you were driving as Spike Lee back there when the posted Black Speed Limit was Morgan Freeman?”
Well, this might be for you.
Since speaking with our mouths is obsolete and since we’ll sooner drop a newborn baby than an iPhone 6, it only seems fitting that a group of business leaders and lawyers in Portland, Oregon have teamed up to create a new smart phone app which educates African-Americans about how to handle traffic stops.
While totally ripe for parody, I promise that this is real.
Mariann Hyland, an African-American lawyer from Portland (or Fox News’ worst nightmare), promised to one day create something that black people could readily use to help them during police stops. Hyland was inspired after Portland Police fatally shot 21-year-old Kendra James after they pulled her over ten years ago.
She brought that vision to fruition recently after teaming up with business lawyer Melvin Oden-Orr to release the Driving While Black app.
During an interview with OregonLive Hyland said:
Being a police officer is a tough job. They deal with the most horrific experiences in society. They’re first responders. And traffic stops tend to be where they get hurt the most. So they’re on high alert when they pull you over. We want to educate people about how to put them at ease so they don’t feel threatened.
Statistically, a black driver is more likely to get pulled over a white driver. In fact, a 2013 U.S. Justice Department report found that African-Americans are 30 percent more likely to be stopped over a white driver. Of course it does help if you’re black and blast Justin Bieber from your car. In Portland, despite making up 6 percent of the population, African-Americans comprised 12 percent of all Portland Police traffic stops between August and December of 2011.
So what does the App do?
While the app can’t change the complexion of the driver, it does offer a variety of common tips and advice. For example, it advises against tinted windows and admonishes people of color to make sure they use turn signals early. It also includes checklists and reminders, like urging drivers to keep their license plate tags up-to-date and their headlights in working order. The important stuff, however, is what to do during the traffic stop.
Because, as Hyland told OregonLive:
People feel so alone in these vulnerable situations
To help people deal with a traffic stop, the Driving While Black app includes an alert function that allows users to program three phone numbers in — for example their mother, a friend and a lawyer (you’re only friend unless your mother is a lawyer). Then, when the driver is stopped by an officer, the user can hit the “alert” button to immediately send a message to those three people.
While several apps already exist that allow users to secretly record and instantly upload police interactions, this app also includes video tutorials that show good and bad behavior during traffic stops (and not from Key & Peele). The Driving While Black app also offers forms for submitting commendations or complaints against officers and a how-to-guide for parents talking with their kids about police.
Hyland, not wanting the project to seem antagonistic towards cops, made sure that the app included checklists for ways to keep officers at ease. (And no, keeping a fresh box of donuts in the glove compartment isn’t one of them.)
What about pedestrian stops?
Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson was a result of a pedestrian stop, the Driving While Black app includes some tutorials useful during pedestrian stops. In Portland, African-Americans account for 20 percent of police pedestrian stops so that feature should come in handy as well.
For anyone interested, the app will be available for Android and iPhone later this month.