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Who Is George Hofstetter, Who Created The 'CopStop' App As A Teenager?

Following the killing of Trayvon Martin, George Hofstetter developed an app that would hold police accountable when they stopped a person of color.

Use Of Force The Policing Of Black America Peacock 1

In an attempt to prevent police brutality against people of color, one Black teenager created an app that is designed to hold police accountable. 

Peacock’s upcoming documentary “Use of Force: the Policing of Black America” features interviews with numerous individuals fighting against injustice and police brutality. George Hofstetter is one such person. He began working on his app to prevent police violence when he was just 15 years old.

At a TEDxSeattle appearance featured in the documentary, Hofstetter explains that when he attended the technology event Hackathon, the organizers posed the question: could an app have saved Trayvon Martin?  Martin was 17 when he was shot and killed in 2011 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Martin in 2013.

Hofstetter decided to act on the question asked at Hackathon. Now 21-years-old, and the CEO at his own tech company GHTech Inc, he created CopStop, an app that records video and stores it on a person's phone when they are in contact with the police. It also sends alerts by text and email, sharing the person’s location with up to ten contacts. 

“[CopStop] was born out of the idea that we need to figure out how to alleviate this overwhelming sense of anxiety that Black folks get, and other folks of color get when they’re talking to an officer after he or she pulls you over,” Hofstetter explains in “Use of Force.” “It’s ridiculous that you can feel like you’re frozen, that these folks that you’re supposed to call after anything happens, that you feel like they’re ready to kill you, so I had to figure out some step in the right direction to figure out a solution with it.”

The app caught the attention of football player and activist Colin Kaepernick, who in turn asked Hofstetter to speak to 300 young people at a Know Your Rights Camp in 2018, Bay Area outlet Press Democrat reported in 2019. Hofstetter told that crowd there that his “fear became my inspiration.” Hofstetter has also worked with Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, and Megan Smith, the ex-United States chief technology officer and assistant to President Obama on utilizing technology for racial equality, the Press Democrat reported.

Now a University Innovation Fellow at Stanford University, Hofstetter says on his website that his goal is to, “truly change the diversity numbers in tech, to eliminate the digital divide, and elevate communities of color.” 

“Use of Force: the Policing of Black America” debuts on Friday.

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