By Alfredo Herrera –
Around the United States, people are having a renewed conversation about police reform and what that should be. With the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 came mass protests for change and action to be taken by local and state governments, including the federal government.
In the midst of all the protesting in 2020, Atlanta native Mbye Njie had been making people aware about an app called Legal Equalizer that he created in 2014 when there was a national uprising following the death of Michael Brown and discussions around police brutality, the need for reform and how situations like traffic stops can escalate to the point of violence against Black Americans resulting in loss of life.
Njie created the Legal Equalizer app in an attempt to make those situations more safe, and driven by encounters of his own with police. In the span of a week, Njie was pulled over three separate times by police. The third time he was held in the back of a police car after an officer told him he had a warrant on him. But, after inspecting Njie’s car for 30 minutes, the officer let him go. That interaction led to Legal Equalizer and the idea of helping others.
The app allows users to enter up to five people from their contacts list that they want to notify if they find themselves in a traffic stop situation. From there, all the user has to do is push a button on the app and a text with the situation and location will be sent to those contacts.
In the latest update, the Legal Equalizer app allows the user to send a zoom link to those contacts so they can listen in on the interaction between the user and officer.
Njie says that the app not only benefits the person using the app, but the police as well. In building the app, Njie went to police departments and asked them how they would like to see citizens respond in these situations and used their input as part of the apps “how to” section that guides users on how to interact with police during a traffic stop or other situation. He says that while not all departments were thrilled at the idea of the app, he stressed to them it’s not meant to be an anti-police app or to say that all officers are bad.
The app doesn’t just deal with traffic stops. There are options to alert contacts to other unsafe situations such as immigration raids, domestic violence, active shooter situations and other general emergencies. The hope for Njie, is that the app can be used in a proactive way for people in order to help avoid the tragic loss of life that we have seen over time.