There are smartphone apps for dating, delivering food, tracking exercise routines — and now, in Los Angeles, there's one for civilian oversight of policing.
The Police Commission's inspector general formally unveiled the app this week, saying it was designed to help Angelenos more easily access information from the five-person panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department.
Inspector General Alex Bustamante told his bosses that the idea for the app came after his office determined there was a gap in the information provided by the commission and what the public actually received. Some people couldn't get that information online because they didn't have home computers, he said. Others may not have the time — or the desire — to go to a police station or City Council office for help tracking it down.
"We quickly realized that most community members, however, do have a smartphone," Bustamante said.
Users of the free app can read reports from the inspector general's office and comb through the commission's rulings on police shootings. They can also file complaints or commendations about LAPD officers, which can be made in different languages and can include photos or video of the interaction.
The app also includes contact information for the mayor's office, City Council members and a GPS-based map to direct users to the nearest police station.
Bustamante said he believes the app is the first in the country from an entity tasked with overseeing a law enforcement agency.
Liana Perez, the director of operations for the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, said in an interview that although people in oversight circles have talked about using smartphone apps, this was the first one she had heard about coming to fruition. The Tucson-based nonprofit connects people and agencies tasked with civilian oversight of policing.
"It's a good move," she said. "Anything you can use to engage your citizens and your surroundings … is a very positive step."