Police the Police Department, An Uber For Police Misconduct

Police the Police Department, An Uber For Police Misconduct

Tracy Jackson far Left, Donnel Warren far Right

By Max Tedford, December 8, 2020

Tracy Jackson was driving down a Los Angeles street when he saw three young, African American teens who had been pulled over by a police officer. He could tell the boys were nervous. With events of the past summer in mind, Jackson parked his car and walked over to film the interaction. The officer asked him to stay back.

“Ok, but I’m going to keep filming”, Jackson replied.

The officer wrote a ticket and left, but the boys stayed to thank Jackson for being there. They said they felt safer with him filming.

That feeling of security is exactly why Tracy Jackson created his non-profit organization “Police the Police Department,” with an Uber-style app for deterring police abuse of power.

The app is currently in development and will be released at the beginning of next year.. While the app will be free to download on all app stores, to access most of the features users will have to pay a $3.99 monthly subscription fee.

The main feature of the PTPD app will work similarly to Uber’s ride-finding feature. A user can open the app and immediately hit a button which will connect to the nearest PTPD rapid response drivers. After one of the drivers accepts the call, the app will send out push notifications to the user’s previously-set emergency contacts to let them know what is happening. A recording will play at this point instructing the users to remain calm and listen to the police’s instructions.

Once the drivers arrive, they will maintain a safe and legal distance from officers while filming the interaction between their client and law enforcement. The app gives the option for clients to either facetime their emergency contact or have the driver livestream the footage to the emergency contact. At the end of the call, users are given the option to rate and tip the drivers afterward.

Donnel Warren, PTPD’s vice president and a veteran of the Navy, says the goal is to make these interactions between police and citizens safer.

“What we want is to de-escalate,” Warren said. “And the good thing is it doesn’t matter who did something wrong, we’ll have it all on tape.”

To do that Warren says he plans to rigidly train their drivers. Drivers will know the law surrounding filming police, how to best film the interactions, and will help keep their clients calm. Jackson says PTPD drivers will be trained to not interfere, even if they witness an abuse of power.

This is where the rest of the organization begins its work. Following the conclusion of a call, if drivers feel they recorded an instance of police misconduct they send the footage to their department “chiefs”. The department “chiefs” will be responsible for the hiring and firing drivers as well as reviewing all footage sent in.

According to the Police the Police Department website if the “chief” feels that the footage does show an abuse of power they then send it as a case file to an investigator. If the investigator finds there was misconduct they either assist the client in making their own report against the offending police officer or the PTPD investigators personally make that effort to have the police department punish the officer in question.

Before founding Police the Police Department Donnel Warren and Tracy Jackson worked for years in the telecommunication industry. The two met at a Data Comminications Training in Oakland where they became fast friends. The two left their companies in the early 2000s to form a vocational training school on data communications called Trinity Technical Institute. Its main mission is to help give vocational training to underprivileged people of color. However Jackson says watching the videos of George Floyd’s death inspired him to do something tangible to help people in his community. After going to Black Lives Matter protests with Warren the two felt something like a citizens watch group could help be a part of a solution.

Jackson hopes their app will help save lives. Currently, Jackson and Warren have been patrolling Los Angeles with legal 911 scanners to spread awareness of PTPD among the communities. According to Jackson, PTPD will eventually cover more than just those who pay for the app, but also anyone who drivers can reach in time. There are already 170 drivers that have signed up to work for PTPD in Los Angeles. Jackson says they will pay drivers twenty dollars for every call they do, in addition to tip they receive from users of the app.

Denice Maupin, who Tracy Jackson designated as the chief of the Los Angeles Department of the PTPD, believes PTPD has to act as a check for police. “The police are not going to do it,” she said. “Internal affairs investigates but they’re not transparent, and no one is getting justice.”

Denise Maupin left, Tracy Jackson Right

Maupin was recruited into PTPD after joining their Facebook page, thinking it was a community watch group. She had attended many of the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer and has been a well-known prison reformist for years. Jackson who had heard of her work on prison reform immediately tagged her to become the first “chief” of Police the Police Department.

According to Maupin civilians, policing the police is not a new thing in California. It’s exactly how the Black Panthers got their start. Back in 1966 when it was legal to openly carry weapons in California, Black Panther members would follow police officers around until the police would make a traffic stop. Members then hopped out of their vehicles with their weapons on their backs and stayed close by until the stop was over. From these initial members the larger Black Panther party grew. Their stated goal was to act as a deterrence against police’s abuse of power. Maupin says PTPD’s goal is the same.

“Nowadays we can’t carry guns,” Maupin said, “But now we have a new weapon. Our phones.”

Jackson says he does not want there to be an antagonistic relationship between officers of the law and his drivers.

“I think that any of the officers out there doing their job right will want us out there.”

Jackson says of the officers he’s talked to most have responded positively to the idea of Police the Police Department. However the PTPD has yet to reach out directly to the LA Police Department.

When reached out to for questions, the LAPD did not respond.

In addition to the rapid response driver feature, PTPD will offer an answer line for both English and Spanish speakers. For users who are arrested following an interaction with police, PTPD will offer a tow prevention service. If the user chooses, the driver that responded to their call can take their keys and either put the car in a safe location, or deliver it directly to the emergency contact.

On their website along with PTPD merchandise they are selling a line of Wonder Hoodie bullet-proof vests and bullet-proof casual wear. According to the Wonder Hoodie website they are rated at level of NIJ-IIIA protection. This means the bullet proof clothing is thick enough to stop rounds from small to medium handguns. Jackson explained that police shootings are not the only worry for young black teens, also citing the gang violence that has been rising this year around Los Angeles.

Jackson and Warren have already invested $35,000 of their own money into Police the Police Department. They are continuing to seek investors as they gear up to release the app at the beginning of next year. In its initial year Jackson says PTPD will focus around the Los Angeles area. However Jackson plans for the PTPD to eventually become a nationwide organization.

“I think, five years down the line, we’ll be in cities like New York, New Orleans, and more hopefully,” said Jackson. “Eventually I want there to be a Police the Police driver for every stop an officer does.”

Independent journalist based in Los Angeles