As a black man in Chicago and the son of a law enforcement official, Channing Harris said he’s seen both the good and bad sides of police work.
That’s why the Chicago native is developing a Yelp-like smart phone app that allows city residents to report any interactions — good or bad — with police.
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The app and website, Excuse Me Officer, will not only allow residents to report police interactions, but will also provide an interactive map of reports filed near the user’s location.
The end product will hopefully aid in police “transparency” that will lead to better police-community relations, said Harris, whose mother is a “badged dispatcher” for the Elgin Police Department.
“I want to show the hero cops and the bad cops,” he said. “The media wants to focus on the bad story so much that the hero cops get ignored.”
Harris and his partners have just won $4,000 in seed funding after coming in first place at South Side Pitch, a contest coordinated by the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, a law clinic at the University of Chicago’s Law School.
“The judges absolutely loved it,” he said. “We were the fan favorite.”
The idea came to Harris around October 2015, when his good friend, a woman, was severely beaten by an off-duty officer. Her appendix ruptured because of the fight, but she was the only one arrested when officers showed up, Harris said.
The incident gave Harris the idea to start a Facebook page where people could report officer interactions. The Facebook page morphed into the website and app, he said.
Despite having family in law enforcement, Harris said “I still experience the everyday black struggle.”
“I’ve seen cops do some great things and I’ve seen cops do some shady things,” he said.