Catholic school graduate hopes app can help with civil and police interactions

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) – Arrested by police, nervous and unsure of what to do? There is an application for this, thanks to the work of a former student of the Catholic school and his partners.

They launched TurnSignl, a web application designed to match a person stopped by police while driving or who has been in a car accident, with a lawyer who can educate the parties about their rights and, most importantly, is trained. to defuse the situation if things get tense.

Jazz Hampton, CEO and general counsel of TurnSignl, attended Catholic schools in sixth year law school, and he sees the values ​​of that education shaping both his decision to leave a rising career with a law firm. national for a start-up, and the TurnSignl difference intends to make.

“I feel like I have all the success in the world if I can help people every day,” said Hampton, 30, whose Catholic education began at Blessed Trinity in Richfield, Minnesota, in. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and continued nearby to the Academy of the Holy Angels where he graduated in 2008.

He attended St. Thomas University in St. Paul for his undergraduate degree before entering St. Thomas’ School of Law.

Catholic education, he said, “has really instilled in me to think about whatever tool I have, whatever gifts God has given me, whatever opportunities there are. offer to me – how can I use them to help others?

He is convinced he can do it with TurnSignl. To use it, drivers download the app to their phone and pay a monthly or annual subscription. If they are arrested or have an accident, they open the app and press a button to video call a lawyer. The phone screen shows the lawyer and records the interaction.

The lawyer is there to advise drivers on their rights, and is trained by national experts in de-escalation.

TurnSignl advises its users to keep phones in the dashboard mounts and to affix the TurnSignl sticker to the rear bumpers of their cars to alert agents that they can expect the app. be used.

It’s like having a lawyer sitting in the passenger seat, Hampton told The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocese’s newspaper. He and his partners hope it becomes as ubiquitous as Uber.

“I think everyone is uncomfortable interacting with the police,” said Hampton, comparing them to airport security. “When I put my bag through TSA security, I know exactly what’s in it, don’t I, but you have a strange feeling in your stomach. “

TurnSignl became available a year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, where the first interaction between the officers and Floyd occurred in Floyd’s SUV, and just weeks after the death in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, of Daunte Wright. , who was shot dead on April 11 by a police officer during a traffic stop.

Recent shootings of people of color involving police across the country have led to numerous calls for police reform at the federal and local levels, including in Minneapolis, where TurnSignl’s offices are located.

But it was the shooting death of Philando Castile in 2016 by a police officer during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights that prompted Hampton’s two TurnSignl colleagues to start asking what ‘they could do.

A chance connection with an innovator with common goals led them to launch TurnSignl and recruit Hampton to lead it.

“I thought to myself, as a person of color with a particular set of skills and knowledge, rather than being sad and just going to peaceful marches and demonstrations, what can I do to be a part of the solution? Hampton remembered thinking when offered the job. “I felt like I had a tool that I wasn’t using to its full potential. “

For Hampton and his partners, who are black, TurnSignl is “an accomplishment of our passion and living up to what we all believe in and how we can help.”

While tragic encounters between black men and the police were the driving force behind the app’s launch, Hampton also sees it appealing to parents of new drivers and drivers who feel vulnerable in uninhabited areas. To make it widely available, subscription fees are waived for people who can’t afford to pay.

Hampton is quick to make one point clear: “This is not an anti-police app,” he said. “TurnSignl is there for three reasons: to protect the civil rights of drivers, to defuse interaction, and to get the driver and police officer home safely. “

He met with law enforcement in several jurisdictions to share the potential of the app and get feedback on how it could benefit them as well. What he heard led to improvements to the app before its release.

Hampton, however, is sensitive to a sense of division in society between those who support people of color and law enforcement. That’s why he calls TurnSignl “an app to bridge the gap”, and said it is about recognizing the human dignity of everyone.

“A lot of things about policing (are) a burning issue, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “There are people who feel like they’re on one side or the other, but… I’ve learned that nothing is so black and white. … I have a Black Lives Matter sign in my backyard, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy and care (for the police).

He added, “There have been tragic cases, particularly here in Minnesota, of people who have died during interactions with police. The vast majority of law enforcement officers are great people. Let’s find a way to bridge the gap. … We want everyone to come home safe, and we do so while specifically protecting driver rights and defusing interaction.

Hampton, a non-Catholic Christian, is married with two young children. In addition to directing TurnSignl, he is an Assistant Instructor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and a member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Holy Angels.

In April, he addressed students at a Holy Angels Social Justice Week assembly, telling them that whatever career they choose, they can use that education to help others.

“Helping make everyone feel included and safe is at the heart of what social justice is,” he said.

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Copyright © 2021 Catholic News Service / United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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