OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Seated at a conference room table Friday, Curt Foster could clearly point to the disturbing event that made him realize a need to address danger during traffic stops across the country.
“A lot of police shootings were happening across the country, I just felt like it was starting to become normal,” he said, also saying a lack of transparent communication between police and the community was universally apparent.
“[When] Philando Castile was shot, he did everything right, and it was a situation where you thought it was about as safe as it could be for a person driving,” said Curt. “Forty-five seconds later, he has bullets being put into his body.”
Castile, a 32-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in Minnesota by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.
Castile’s family later reached a $3 million settlement in his death, according to the Associated Press.
Data from the non-profit research group Mapping Police Violence showed nearly 600 deadly traffic stops occurred between 2017 and 2021.
Subsequent data also shows racial disparities for deaths during police encounters.
Foster said the realization that these incidents could become a cultural norm forced him to look for ways to address the problem, across multiple demographics.
Curt, James and Chris Foster are now in the process of bringing the tool they believe will make traffic stops safer to life.
“[The three of us] came together as a family to solve a bigger problem that we have identified in the country,” said Chris.
In the interview with KFOR Friday, the creators said BlueJay could become a key to de-escalating tension and anxiety for both people and police.
“Let’s give more information to the driver. Let’s give more information to the police officer,” said Curt, while adding that the app will also highlight positive police records and interactions with law enforcement.
“We [now] have a platform that addresses what we think is a very key problem, and not just for a few minority demographics,” stated James. “We tried to involve as many people as possible so that we could make an app that is for everybody [and extends its reach] across the country in a viral way.”
Ideally, a driver who downloads and engages with the BlueJay app during a stop will automatically receive a phone notification displaying the name of the officer, their badge number and their photo.
There is also an option to notify friends and family notified with the driver’s location.
The group said one of the most effective elements of the app is the collective data shared by users and their local law enforcement, for context.
“It’s more communication between both parties so that each person knows better how to interact with the other,” added Chris.
“We just want to make the experience [for a traffice stop] overall beneficial for everyone [so in the end] we all make it home,” said James.
While the app is still being tested, the Foster’s said it’s already been well received in Oklahoma City, including among local law enforcement.
The Fosters also said they’re working on options to make the tool inclusive, with additional options for people who speak other languages or have disabilities.