Can this new chatbot increase police accountability? - Technical.ly DC

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Nov. 4, 2016 10:49 am

Can this new chatbot increase police accountability?

The long-awaited tool for aggregating police interaction data was released last week. Here's how it works, and how you can try it out.

Raheem wants to know how your latest conversation with the police went.

(Screenshot)

What if filing a police complaint was as easy as sending a Facebook message?

In the past few months we’ve seen Facebook chatbots offer everything from monitoring our happiness to monitoring the election. Now there’s a new chatbot offering to monitor our interactions with the police.

A sample conversation with Raheem. (Courtesy image)

A sample conversation with Raheem. (Courtesy image)

In response to national outcry over police brutality, last month the Department of Justice announced that the FBI would begin gathering comprehensive data on police shootings and police violence. But the FBI data collection leaves out a range of other types of incidents, and citizens can’t submit their own input.

That’s where D.C.’s homegrown chatbot, Raheem, comes in.
Raheem is a bot integrated with Facebook Messenger that walks users through a conversation about their recent interaction with police officers. The bot asks users if they’re safe, and prompts users to tell what time and place the interaction occurred. Raheem also allows users to rate the interaction — meaning people can report positive police interactions, as well.

The data collected by the bot is anonymized, and then aggregated into what the website describes as, “community policing dashboards.” These will be entered into “the first national database on police performance open to the public,” according to a press release. The website is short on details for how exactly that works.

Now that the bot is out you can try it yourself.

Raheem’s developers are looking to build a community of 2,000 beta users by January. To become a user, join the beta testing Facebook group to share feedback.

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Formerly known as the SWAT App, we wrote about some of local founder Brandon Anderson’s earlier designs for Raheem at the Thriving Cities Hackathon.

Earlier this fall, Anderson told us over the phone that he and his team had switched from designing the original mobile app to a Facebook Messenger chatbot instead.

According to the website, Raheem is supported by a team of 24 designers, researchers, and advisers.

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Julia Airey

Julia Airey previously served as the associate editor of The Diplomacist, and sector editor for Tabula Rasa. She led the investigation team for the 2016 #ForcedToUnite conference. In her free time she likes dogs of the large and fluffy variety.

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