In the aftermath of Michael Brown's death and the ensuing unrest in Ferguson, sisters Asha and Ima Christensen (15 and 18, respectively) felt they had to do something. The two Macon, Georgia, high-school students have “dabbled” in computer science, code, and web design since middle school, and they decided to combine their self-taught tech skills with social consciousness to develop Five-O. It's a Yelp-like app that allows ordinary citizens to report interactions with their local police, with the goal of increasing awareness and accountability.
The Cut caught up with the sisters for a chat about their impressive summer vacation.
You own an app company, Pinetart, Inc. Besides Five-O, what kinds of apps are you creating?
Ima Christensen: Our philosophy is just trying to keep solving problems with technology. We currently have two more apps in the pipeline. One app is called Coily — that’s a rate-and-review app for African-American women’s hair products. Another app that we have is called Froshly, and that’s an app for pre-frosh or pre-freshman wanting to interact with each other before they actually meet each other on campus.
But Five-O is your first app on the market?
I.C.: It’s fully released on the Google Online Store and available for download for Android. People have been responding to it, and we’ve been getting a lot of feedback. Our iOS will be available sometime next week.
Tell me how it works.
I.C.: It’s like Yelp. A big part of the app is being able to document your interactions with the officers. The user can input their interaction with the police officer, and describe their feelings in a section called "Creating an Incident Report." You’ll rate them on an A through F scale on professionalism and courtesy and can add your own personal comment about how you feel the interaction went. You categorize it by your county or zip code, so whenever someone else comes into the app, they can search by their zip code or their county and see the general rating, on a 4.0 scale, that their law enforcement agency has. We also have other functions like “Know Your Rights.” So if you’re ever dealing with a law enforcement officer and don’t know what rights you have, then you have this guide at your fingertips. And, lastly, we’ve created a community message board, which allows you to interact with the people in your community; for example, you can set a date or set an event for a future meeting for the people in your neighborhood and put in your zip code so that everyone has access to it.
So if I were in Ferguson, how would I use this app right now?
I.C.: This app would hopefully be used before a situation escalated. We’re more in the business of preventing it from happening.
Asha Christensen: Right. Because if there [had been] a way to review how that specific officer was behaving toward other people, his behavior could have been addressed much further before this specific event happened. It’s all about giving an example for people to model off law enforcement agencies with better positive reviews.
What was your personal reaction to the Michael Brown case? What about it made you want to move forward with this app?
I.C.: It’s devastating what happened. It’s definitely tragic and in some ways we’re still trying to process it. We’re channeling that into working on Five-O and making sure that we can effectively get it out.
A.C.: And we’ve had family members who have had some negative interactions with law enforcement before, but what has been going on more recently with Ferguson and the Eric Garner case really forced us to try and push it out and get it in the App Store at this time.
There's a lot of anger toward the police right now. Are you worried the crowd-sourcing on Five-O could be skewed?
A.C.: We definitely want there to be a balance on our app. If people have a negative interaction with the police, they should document that. If someone has a positive interaction with the police, for example, an officer rescues your pet or is very courteous and professional — we want people to be able to document that, too.
There have been many other apps that are crowd-sourcing based — for example, Yelp. We feel like the more people that download and the more people that offer their opinions, the more accurate it will be.
I.C.: We also think that law enforcement officers are no better or worse than the average citizen, but they have power. What they choose to do with that power is what counts. We’re really hoping that we can bring visibility to all instances — good or bad.
Five-O is available for Android and soon-to-be released for the iPhone.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Most Viewed Stories
Melania Trump Is Reportedly ‘Miserable’ in Her Role As First Lady
Trump Somehow Found a Way to Insult Women at the Unveiling of an Airplane
Angela Merkel Is Also Powerless Against Justin Trudeau’s Gaze
Nighttime Voice-mails From the White House
Trump Supporters Are Buying Ivanka Trump’s ‘Liberal Repellent’ Perfume As Revenge
Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, Dies at Age 69
Alt-Right Troll Milo Yiannopoulos Uses Campus Visit to Openly Mock a Transgender Student
Chrissy Teigen on ‘Underrepresented’ Asian Models and Appropriation
Woman Accused of Killing Kim Jong-nam Says She Thought It Was a Reality-TV Prank
The Fashion World Comes Together in Video to Proclaim, ‘I Am an Immigrant’
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.