Baton Rouge, LA — In a heartening display of open-mindedness, Louisiana State University has granted funds to a group of students to build a police accountability app.
Jerry Ceppos, the dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, chose seven projects at the end of January to receive mini-grants under the school’s Social Media News Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation.
Among the seven projects in this Social Media News Challenge, is an app to help individuals hold police accountable.
Wilborn P. Nobles III, Aryanna Prasad and Elbis Bolton plan to develop a mobile app people can use to document and report police behavior. Not only will it allow its users to document misconduct but it will also provide a means to record acts of courtesy or heroism as well.
In order to complete the project successfully, the students will need to address significant challenges of verification, promotion, and technology, Ceppos said. “But I look forward to seeing how they meet those challenges. This is exactly the kind of ambitious project we hoped students would pursue with these grants.”
The other projects have involved similar social issues such as a project to encourage voting by students. However, none have been so bold as to address the controversial topic of police accountability.
“We’re pleased with the variety of topics the students have proposed and their creative approaches to engaging the community,” Ceppos said.
It is encouraging, to say the least, to see initiatives like this being created at the college level. While this is the first of its kind, we hope to see ideas like it spread to other college campuses.
The social media grants are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.
Nobles, Prasad, and Bolton began work on the app in November of 2014. According to the LSU Mass Comm website, the project is still in its developmental stages.
The group has created a design for the app screens and decided to remove the login as to not discourage people from using the app. They’ve also added a new feature that will provide users with reports on cops in their area, so if a user is in Baton Rouge, they’ll see reports on Baton Rouge cops.
“So far we have had a few interviews with people like WBRZ and are trying to get some more publicity,” Bolton said.
It’s relatively unlikely that the students will get much coverage by the media for such an app. However with your help and by clicking the share button below, we can contribute to providing an example for other universities around the country. We can push the idea of police accountability into the mainstream.