App will allow people to track interactions with police

Two Central Indiana entrepreneurs want to make it easier for people to document negative interactions with police and give civic organizations the data they need to be better advocates.

Pulse Analytix will be an app that Marlin Jackson and Lisa Mitchell hope leads to a fuller and more accurate picture of how people interact with police. Civic and oversight organizations could then subscribe to get access to the data people input, giving them another tool to evaluate what needs done when it comes to community and the police.

The app, which Mitchell said should launch in the second or third quarter this year, will be free for people to use, but organizations, including media outlets, would have to pay for a subscription to see the data.

“If we can empower citizens to document and voice their experiences and have information go to the right people, now their needs can be met,” said Jackson, who played cornerback for the Colts from 2005 to 2009.

Of course, anyone can file a complaint — alleging racial profiling, for example — and departments have a review process.

Complaints against Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department go to the Citizens Police Complaint Board, which has nine voting members who serve three-year terms. People can also file a public information request for specific data, and there are other major data collectors such as the FBI.

Jackson and Mitchell worry about two things, though.

First, the formal complaint process can be tedious, and someone who has a bad experience with police that might be worth documenting could opt to not take the time to do it, especially if they feel like nothing will come out of it. Second, not all useful data is readily available, and depending on what you’re looking for, it could take a while to get an information request fulfilled.

Pulse Analytix could allow civic organizations — as well as any police departments that join as partners — to get a more real-time look at what’s happening.

“No longer will these organizations rely on the system to supply the data for them,” Jackson said. “We can supply the direct channel between citizens and these groups.”
Pulse Analytix could run into its own issues, especially if not enough people use the app. Civic organizations might subscribe to get access to a data dashboard that includes more anecdotes that anything. It would be difficult to assess data and draw trends if the data points are few and far between.

Mitchell said there isn’t a specific target number of users yet and that they will continue to adjust datasets and algorithms as more people join.

A secondary customer, aside from people and civic organizations, will be police departments. Mitchell said they have been working with IMPD and hope to have a pilot program by the end of the year.

An IMPD spokesperson said in a statement: “IMPD is always exploring new technologies, programs, and partnerships that can help us to better connect with our community or provide additional support to our officers in their service to Indianapolis residents. We continue to be engaged in such discussions with Pulse Analytix, among other potential partners.”

Buy-in from law enforcement isn’t necessary for Pulse Analytix to be successful, Jackson said, but he thinks it would make for a more user-friendly experience with better communication.

“That’s customer service,” he said. “Even if it’s through a digital system, there’s some form of communication.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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