In the United States, police make more than 20 million stops in any given year. While the vast majority of these stops are peaceful, highly visible cases of police misconduct have escalated tensions between the Black community and law enforcement. It’s why Bradley Lewis, founder and CEO of iWTNS (eyewitness), developed the application to allow users to be assisted with legal counsel on demand and in real time during a time of contention where law enforcement is involved.
In 2019, the Stanford Open Policing Project took a look at nearly 100 million traffic stops from 2011 to 2017 across state agencies. What it found was that Black and Latino drivers were stopped more often than white drivers, based on less evidence of wrongdoing. With iWTNS, Lewis has created an opportunity for those who find themselves in these situations to receive quick, legal help. With the push of a button this application has the capability to allow users to teleconference with a trusted legal professional while the traffic stop is occurring.
Lewis describes IWTNS as a “startup tech company created to protect people from the police violating our civil rights.” His excitement around the app stems from its ability to "level the playing field" with citizens of the Black community and law enforcement who he feels often misrepresent their badge.
All interactions between subscribers, legal professionals, and law enforcement are recorded using both video and audio. Lewis expects that any violation on the part of officers will result in a suit against the offending officer and the department, brought on by the representing legal professional.
Lewis believes the app has the potential to affect change on the highest levels, and possibly push for stronger legislation in Washington, DC. For more than a year, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has been caught up in Congress. The bill aims to put an end to certain police practices, including tactics considered potentially deadly force. These practices would be banned on the federal level, with the expectation that local jurisdictions would adopt such practices in order to receive federal funding. The bill would also invest in programs that would improve policing and promote new policies.
“You can not expect things to change if we don’t change the rules on a federal level,” Lewis said in an interview. “iWTNS is committed to protecting all communities, and I believe it can be done if we see continued growth in the app’s subscriber base.”