Stopped By Police? Use A-Where App To Keep Your Relatives Updated

Quentin Robinson is the creator of A-Where, a great app that enables you to alert your closest friends and relatives whenever you are stopped by cops.

Black men being stopped by police on a daily basis is somehow a norm in many American cities today. Unfortunately, a lot of these stops end tragically, with some Black men either shot and killed or at least injured by cops. What can we do to avoid these situations? Quentin Robinson thinks that alerting our closest friends and relatives as to where we are whenever we’re stopped is a great way. That’s why he created the A-Where app, which enables you to alert people closest to you whenever you are stopped. Today we find out how the single push of a button could be the difference between life and death for some of us.
Hello Quentin! First of all, could you please tell us about yourself?
John Smith
Sure, I’m Quentin Robinson, I reside in Cleveland, Ohio, I am 33 years of age and I’m still in school majoring in theology. I have a 12-year-old son and I’m pretty much just trying to live my life to the fullest.
How long have you been in the field of software development?
John Smith
I myself haven’t been in the industry. I developed the A-Where app with a group called SGM Games.
Could you give us a brief background of what made you decide to create the A-Where app?
John Smith
It was one night, I was driving home, and I was at the corner of the street that my house is on. I saw a mechanic shop as I looked over to the right and I noticed that there was a car pulled over in it. Now the only reason I noticed that was because I saw the interior light on, but the police themselves didn’t have their lights on at all, so it was completely black, it was a dark environment, and there was a car full of young African Americans. And I was thinking to myself, they’re pulled over and we don’t know if anybody knows where they are or what’s actually happening at this moment. So at that moment, it dawned on me that that’s what we lack. We lack individuals knowing where we are when we are approached or encountered by police.
So that’s when you decided to build the app.
John Smith
That is correct.
And could you please tell us how the app works, its basic principles and how it helps people in trouble?
John Smith
It’s very simple. The basic function is, you pull the application up or you keep the application open in your background which is what I prefer. If you’re encountered or approached by the police whether you’re in your car or walking, you simply pull your phone out, go up to your A-Where app and press one button that says: Send Alert. Now when you send that alert, you’ve already programmed up to 3 individuals in your contact list who are going to receive it. The alert consists of your location, meaning the address that that you’re at, the city that you’re in and the time that you’re being approached or pulled over by the police. How does this help? How this helps is, if I’m pulled over – and I’ve been pulled over before – generally the circumstance is nobody knows where I am except the police and all the police officers in the city in which I’m pulled over. So this actually brings an alertness or an awareness to individuals of my exact situation and my exact location. So I’m not fumbling around in my car with my phone so that they don’t mistake it for anything that a lot of police officers tend to do nowadays. And it pretty much gives a beacon of your exact location so that if something was to go awry, individuals can call, and if you don’t answer then they know something may have happened. They can text you back asking you to let them know when everything is okay, or they can come right to your location. Now in the event that everything is okay, there’s also an “End Alert” which is also the simple press of a button, you press End Alert and it sends a message to the exact individuals letting them know that everything is okay, and you’re fine.
And is it possible that the police could interfere or prevent the use of the application?
John Smith
No. What’s happening today is, a lot of individuals think that recording using a recording device is actually beneficial, which in a sense it is, but the downside of videotaping is the police can confiscate your phone. If your phone gets confiscated after you press Send Alert, it doesn’t matter, people already know exactly where you are and what the situation is. It doesn’t matter if they take your phone or break your phone, the message is sent. There’s no way to unsend it. That’s number one. With videos, depending on what site you’re trying to utilize so that people can see what’s happening to you, if you use Facebook Live for example, Facebook has the option and legal right to remove videos that they choose to. There’s nothing to remove here if you send a message. There’s no interference that can happen. It’s between you and the individuals that you’ve programmed within your phone.
Now to your background. Before you created this app, had there been any personal encounters with the police that led you to create the app? Have you ever faced police brutality?
John Smith
I’ve never faced police brutality, I’ve faced police racial profiling. I live in Cleveland and in Cleveland, there are specific racial areas that everybody pretty much knows about especially if you’re a person of color and you’re not necessarily welcomed in these places. So I was actually in that place working for the Wall Street Journal, and protocol was to hang your newspapers from your rearview mirror so that everybody knows what exactly you’re doing, they see the newspapers hanging from your windows and it’s pretty obvious. So I get pulled over by the police this night – there’ve been a couple of cases – but on this occasion I get pulled over, the officer approaches my window, he sees the newspapers and proceeds to ask me what I’m doing. I tell him I’m working for the Wall Street Journal, and he asks me, “What are you doing here?” “What do you mean what am I doing here? I’m working!” I don’t know how else to answer that question. So again this is one of those situations where they really let you know that they really don’t want you there. There was another situation in the same city. I get pulled over and everything was going smooth until I looked behind me and I noticed that there were 3 additional police cars piling up behind this original police car that had pulled me over. So now there are 4 police cars at this point pulling one individual over. I can’t remember what the infraction was that they pulled me over for, but I do know that there were 4 vehicles to 1, and every police officer got out of their vehicle basically putting their black gloves on. I don’t know what they were expecting, I don’t know what they felt was about to happen, but I know it terrified me. And that’s another thing that I’d like to touch on. The upper hand that the police have is that they do have the numbers, so if this application becomes a bigger thing and everybody literally becomes aware, so to speak, and we can move in numbers, I think it starts evening the playing field for the citizen and not the police.
What about your friends, and family? Do they also have this same problem of racial profiling or has any of them ever been brutalized by cops?
John Smith
In family, no police brutality, racial profiling, yes. I have a cousin – I was actually with him at this time – he got pulled over in a very prominent city, I wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily racial tension, but it’s a very prominent city here in Cleveland, very affluent. He’s pulled over, and the female police officer basically approached him with her hand on the gun the entire time. So there was this nerve factor that was playing here. We’re not intending to harm or hurt anyone, so to keep your hand on your weapon the entire time that you’re questioning someone and asking them to show their license, and things of that nature, they automatically feel uncomfortable because you have your hand on your pistol the entire time. And everything that you do, you’re interacting with your hand on a gun. It’s almost equivalent to being robbed. “Give me your license! Give me your insurance!” Basically while a gun is out, you know, its equivalent to being robbed.
That’s sadly very common.
John Smith
Now let’s go back to the app. Could you tell us more about the team that helped build the app, how many people helped in launching it and what you’ve been doing to promote it so far?
John Smith
The individuals or the team that actually helped me develop the app are called SGM Games and they’re based in Ohio as well. I’m not sure exactly how many of them there are, but I interacted with 2 individuals, Gary and David Nunley. They were very instrumental in capturing the essence of what I was looking for because they’re African American themselves. So they understood exactly what I was trying to accomplish and the direction that I was trying to go with the application. It took approximately 5 months to create the app and so far we’re just promoting on Facebook and Twitter. I did have a press release drawn up by an individual in Tennessee to help spread some of the word about it. And I have a video created in which people can see how it works and I think that if people can see the benefit of something, they’re more inclined to react to it. So far the app is doing okay, it definitely needs to be more vocalized and definitely more awareness needs to be created because I think it’s going to be very instrumental to a lot of our communities.
I also think it’s very useful. By the way, do you support the protest movements that are currently going on like Black Lives Matter?
John Smith
I support them in a sense of their protest against police brutality, yes.
Do you have any ideas personally on how to improve the issue of police violence?
John Smith
One theory that I have would be unison. If everybody can get on the same page – and what I mean by being on the same page is for example, if someone I know gets pulled over, I go to make sure something doesn’t happen – that helps the citizens and police as well in retrospect. Because as a police officer, you’re less inclined to act less civil if there’s a variety of people around watching you, whether they’re recording you, saying things to you or simply there being spectators. I believe that they would be less inclined to do some of the things that they’re doing, to act the way they act, if there was an actual audience around a lot of these scenarios. I think adding an audience to an individual who gets pulled over changes the dynamic of a lot of this police brutality.
As you know, Philando Castile was killed in his car while the whole incident was being filmed by his girlfriend. This fact did not stop the cop and did not necessarily save his life. How can technology help people avoid such fatal endings to encounters with cops?
John Smith
I don’t think technology can stop these things from happening, because if a person’s going to pull the trigger they’re going to pull the trigger. I don’t think any kind of technology can comprehend what an actual human mind is capable of doing. But I think that technology can assist in mitigating some of the problems that arise once the situation does occur. Like I just stated, if there’s an audience present, an individual is less likely to act rash or very confrontational, whether it’s the police officer or the actual citizens themselves, because it’s not 100 percent the fault of the police, a part of that lies on the individual, behind the will of the individual walking down the street as well. Sometimes individuals have an ideology that being non-compliant is the thing to do. So it’s not a 100 percent the police though they do take a big part of the problem that we face, we the citizens take a small portion of that in my opinion, but I think adding an audience helps calm both sides and cool them down.
Do you have any parting words for our readers?
John Smith
What I would say is to make sure that you’re aware at all times. This works excellent for police situations, for not just the Black and Latino community but also women as well. You take Jackie Neal, you take Daniel Holtzclaw, who were able to pull women over and based on their situation, were able to get away with raping these women – not necessarily getting away with it because they both got caught. But they were actually able to commit rapes. Daniel Holtzclaw raped 13 women, Jackie Neal raped a 19 year old in the back of his police cruiser. If women have this application, we might see a decrease in police rape as well. So just make sure that you’re aware at all times of your surroundings.

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