Like everyone else in America, Ima Christian has been nervously watching the news unfold in Ferguson, Missouri. The 16-year-old resident of Stone Mountain, Georgia, says that she and her siblings have been in constant conversation with their parents about the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (who died last month in Staten Island) at the hands of police.
"Our parents try to put everything in context for us," Christian says. "They try to tell us to focus on solutions."
So they decided to build their own answer to police abuse. On Monday, Ima Christian (pictured, second from left) and her siblings—principally Caleb, 14, and Asha, 15, with the support of Joshua, 10—are launching a beta version of Five-O, an app that will enable users to rate their interactions with police and view aggregate scores for how law-enforcement agencies fare.
"As soon as we decided that we wanted to make an app, we threw the idea on the white board," she says.
Here's how Five-O works: Users log in to a dashboard, where they have several options. A Five-O user can create a detailed incident report and rate the professionalism and courtesy of the officer, using an A-F scale. Or they can view police stations by county or state to see how various departments rate. (Those A-F officer interaction scores are averaged out on a 4.0 scale—like a GPA for the fuzz.)
The app also allows people to post messages to a community board. There's another function called "Know Your Rights," a Q&A-formatted feature, "so you have your rights at your fingertips at any moment," Christian says. The family drew the information from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Christian, a senior at Parkview High School, credits her brother Caleb for the idea to create an app for rating police interactions. They decided early on in the project planning stages that Five-O would focus on the good as well as the bad.
"I haven't really heard of issues happening in Stone Mountain of the scale of what's in the news," she says. "I do have relatives who have had negative interactions with police." She says that friends of the family include police officers, who offer a friendlier model for police interactions. "This is an app to offer up positive experiences. They can be an example."
This is the Christian family's first app release, but it's unlikely to be their last. Ima and her siblings are aggressive students of programming, especially for a mobile environment. She and her siblings Asha and Caleb have participated in programs such as MIT's +K12, Scratch, and App Inventor programs. Ima and Asha Christian are both executive team members in the ProjectCSGirls computer science competition. And they were both 2014 #Include Fellows in the She++ program. Ima is a Codecademy alum as well, and has done coding programs through Stanford.
Stanford, incidentally, is Ima's reach school—she's also got her sights set on Washington University in St. Louis, Brown, and Columbia—and the graduating senior has also done work at her top in-state choice, the Georgia Institute of Technology. (Ima's siblings could not be reached for comment, as they were not yet home from school.)
Following Monday's beta launch for Five-O, the Christian siblings are continuing work on two more projects: Coily, a review app for hair-care products for black girls and women, and Froshly, an app to facilitate meetings for in-bound college pre-freshmen, "so they can greet each other before they meet each other in school." The Christian siblings started a company, Pine Tart, Inc., to advance their work.
"We don't have any institutional support right now," Ima Christian says. "It's just us. We're our own team."