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Activists with an App

The Foster family is working to develop an app with the goal of improving interactions between police and the Black citizens they encounter.

Five years ago, after watching coverage of several police-involved shootings, Curt Foster knew he had to do something to try to curb the increasingly hostile – and too often violent – interactions between police officers and citizens.

“I had police officers who were friends of mine, so I knew that not all police officers were bad,” he said. “But at the same time, officers were making bad decisions.” 

The trend has been clear: The Washington Post started compiling a database of every fatal police-involved shooting since Jan. 1, 2015. Since then, the Post has recorded more than 5,000 fatal police shootings, with police killing Black Americans at more than twice as high a rate as white Americans. 

From that, Curt – and now with James and Christopher Foster – are working to create an app that compiles profiles of citizens and police officers alike to get real-time reviews and biographical information for use during police interactions. Their company, BlueJay Partners, is close to finalizing the app, along with partnerships with Oklahoma City-area police stations, to roll out the program in Oklahoma City soon.

“We thought, ‘What do they need to lower their anxiety when a police officer approaches the car?” Curt said. “I gathered it was just communication – on both sides. Police officers didn’t have any information about the people they pull over. They are walking up pretty much blind to who they pull over. Cops have anxiety because they don’t know what to expect, and users have the same anxiety-spiking experience.”

James said BlueJay Partners wants to be part of the solution to lower tension between police officers and the Black community.

“We want to broker the humanization between the normal citizen and police,” he said. “And we want to let people see there are really good cops out there and help cops get a true profile and not a racial profile of who they were seeing.”

He said the app will provide lifesaving, personalizing information about the citizen who the police officer is approaching and it will provide a conduct and compliance rating of previous interactions the police officer has had with members of the public.

“When you are driving late at night and you see those red and blue lights,” he said. “You pull over and, with the app, you will receive a push notification to your phone with information like why you are getting pulled over and you’ll see his picture and humanized information about him. And he’ll receive the same kind of information on you.”

For the partners, the app represents being active to produce change and better race relations in this country.

“You see all these things on TV, and you say there has got to be something that can be done about that,” Christopher said. “Be a part of that change and not just a hashtag. It will be the same thing until someone actually takes the action. Building this platform has satisfied my inner need to try to provide a solution for what’s going on.”

The app is in beta testing and should be ready for the public in July 2022. The rollout will start in Oklahoma City, with plans to take it to other cities soon after.

“We want to evolve the narrative of the current climate between the police and public,” Christopher said. “And we want to change the whole thing that parents have to raise their kids that if they are pulled over by the police it could be their last day.”

James and Christopher Foster. Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander.

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