One in every 1,000 Black men will die at the hands of police. Black men are also 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police use of force than white men. Police violence is a leading cause of death for Black men ages 25 to 29.
The 2016 murder of Philando Castile and 2020 murder of George Floyd by police officers during routine stops brought those statistics into stark focus for Jazz Hampton, Esq., Andre Creighton, and Mychal Frelix.
“Andre and Mychal grew up playing sports with the Castile family, so that tragedy truly hit home for them,” says Jazz Hampton. “All three of us have attended peaceful protests, engaged in dialogue and raised awareness. However, we wanted to do more. We sat down and decided that as three Black professionals, we are uniquely positioned to build a solution to help keep peoples’ rights protected and get everyone home safely.”
In 2020, the trio began developing the TurnSignl app to provide on-demand and real time service to de-escalate encounters between motorists and law enforcement and ensure that drivers feel safe every time they get on the road.
TurnSignl connects the user to an attorney if they are stopped by law enforcement or are involved in a car accident and automatically records the encounter. The attorney provides real-time legal advice to the user during the interaction with law enforcement. TurnSignl attorneys are specifically trained to de-escalate interactions between police, drivers, and passengers. This innovative, subscription-based technology is designed protect driver’s rights, combat police brutality, and increase positive interactions with police.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is funding TurnSignl as part of a five-year engagement strategy with the city of Brooklyn Center that aims to improve racial and health equity for its over 30,000 residents. The new pilot program will provide up to 3,000 residents of Brooklyn Center free access to the TurnSignl app. TurnSignl launched in Minnesota just weeks after the murder of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter.
Police Violence and Public Health
Health care is more than just preventing and treating illness – it is addressing the root causes that are truly undermining the health of our communities. Bukata Hayes, Vice President of Racial and Health Equity at Blue Cross Blue Shield, spoke to this point, stating, “we know that 80% of health is determined by environment, neighborhoods, income and other stressors that exist outside of interactions with doctors and the health care system. Brooklyn Center has been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice, which has taken a serious tole of the health of the community. Our partnership with TurnSignl is an innovative, relevant and a responsive way to begin to create a healthier future.”
Police violence has life threatening and serious impacts on the health of both individuals and communities. Growing evidence demonstrates that the mental health and wellbeing of communities can be deeply affected by high profile incidents of police violence. According to the American Medical Association, “Law enforcement-involved deaths of unarmed Black individuals were associated with adverse mental health among Black American adults—a spillover effect on the population, regardless of whether the individual affected had a personal relationship with the victim or the incident was experienced vicariously. The trauma of violence in a person’s life course is associated with chronic stress, higher rates of comorbidities and lower life expectancy, all of which bear extensive care and economic burden on our healthcare system while sapping the strength of affected families and communities.”
A 2018 study published in the Lancet found that police killings of unarmed black men had adverse mental health effects for black people living in the state where the killing took place. “In data collected by The New York Times, the Minneapolis Police Department used force against black people at seven times the rate of white people in the city during police encounters. These facts, along with lived experiences, contribute to cycles of fear and trauma that should be broken,” said Jazz Hampton.
Working with Law Enforcement to Create Solutions
TurnSignl’s mission is to protect drivers’ rights, de-escalate roadside interactions, and ensure both drivers and police officers return home safely each day. Cofounders met with over 15 police officers, from police chiefs to boots on the ground patrol.
TurnSignl is not a cop watch app. It exists to protect the safety of both motorists and law enforcement officers. “We made it clear to law enforcement that we want them to feel safer approaching a car with a TurnSignl number sticker than they would in any other situation that day. Our platform is there to ensure they get home safe and de-escalate,” said Jazz Hampton.
Rarely does accountability come in non-adversarial forms, but TurnSignl is just that. “TurnSignl provides a way for lawyers to ensure the interaction is de-escalated, rights are not violated, and people remain safe. That is the goal of the platform,” explained Hampton. “At the end of the day, police officers that are doing their work well and by the book also want to ensure there is accountability for any other officer that is not upholding that same standard.”
A Healthier Future
Blue Cross has made it a priority to address racial and health inequities that in Minnesota are, unfortunately, some of the greatest in the nation. In 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota publicly declared racism a public health crisis and pledged to address the impacts of systemic racism on the health of BIPOC communities in Minnesota.
The impact of social determinants of health – things like access to affordable and healthy food, generational trauma, and the excessive use of force by law enforcement against BIPOC– are key drivers of health inequities and must be addressed to create lasting change.
“At Blue Cross we are on a journey to listen and learn and then play our part in the solutions. We know that we can do better, as Blue Cross Blue Shield, but also as a state and a nation, when it comes to addressing racial and health inequities. Our partnership with TurnSignl is one way that we are working to create lasting change and address the impacts of systemic racism on community health,” said Bukata Hayes.