Charmine Davis, a clinical psychotherapist, was worried about her son's safety as he neared the driving age.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of police brutality and race-motivated violence that some readers may find distressing
As Charmine Davis' son neared driving age, she started to get worried. Being a Black person, and a clinical psychotherapist in California, Davis knows Black drivers are more likely to be pulled over by the cops than White drivers. Davis wanted to personally do something to help protect him and that's when she came up with the idea of an app. The "Just Us" app, which's a play on the word "justice," aims to notify loved ones and those in the vicinity of a potential situation every time a Black man is pulled up by cops. Davis is hoping the app can help protect Black people out there, including her son. "A driver's license to me meant that he was going to be out in the world and I couldn't protect him," Davis told Good Morning America. "I just kind of pondered, 'What can I do? How can I stay connected without stagnating this young man who was ready to venture off?'"
Launched in August, the app already has roughly 3,000 users. Considering the app will be used in times of emergency, the makers have given it just three main features. The first one is a "Check-in" feature that will send a message to a set of designated contacts that the person is safe. It will also send the user's current location to them. The second one is a "Head's Up" feature that notifies the designated contacts that the person is being pulled over by law enforcement, sends their location, and begins live streaming. The third one is a "Help" feature that will start live streaming and also notify anyone within a 3-mile radius of the app.
Black drivers are 20% more likely to be pulled up by cops than white drivers, according to a study published in Nature Human Behaviour. It also noted that Black drivers were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be searched by cops afterward. A study conducted by Harvard researchers found that Black people were more than three times as likely to be killed during a police encounter.
The app was launched within three months after George Floyd being killed from an alleged act of police brutality. The app pays homage to the lives of Black people lost to police brutality on its website. "Created with the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and Trayvon Martin in mind, Charmine Davis, a clinical psychologist, and mother, set out to create an app to help families cope with the reality that 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police, "read the description. "The JUST US mobile app was developed as a tool for community activism against police brutality, yet useful at any aggressive interaction that calls for JUST US."
Davis knows very well that using a phone when stopped might not be practical in many situations, so she enabled voice activation. All three features have the ability to be hands-free with voice activation. "We know that a lot of incidents happen when folks reach for things," Davis said. "And so the voice activation was so important to me because you're not reaching for anything. There are no misconceptions there." She also funded the project herself. "She was so committed to it that she used her own money," said Candace Walker, a social impact technologist who worked with Davis on the app. When asked about it, Davis replied, "You can't put a price on love."
She's now hoping to build a larger user base as it takes a community of users for everyone to get timely help. "Just from a cultural aspect, we have always, as African Americans and as people of color, put our safety in someone else's hands," said Davis.