Citizen is a privately-owned “public safety” app that reports neighborhood crime to residents. It has 5 million active users, more App Store downloads than Twitter (Forbes), and is backed by venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital, which is also investing in heavyweights like Cisco, Instagram, and YouTube (Sequoia). It’s a rebrand of an app called Vigilante, which actually encouraged users to go after suspected criminals (Tech Crunch). After the Pacific Palisades fire last month, Citizen sent the full name and photo of a suspected arsonist to 860,000 users. Citizen put a $30,000 bounty on this man, who was unhoused (Oaklandside), and, as in its days as Vigilante, encouraged its users to “get out there and bring this guy to justice” (Vox). As it turns out, he was innocent.
The death has been referred to as an “accidental discharge.” But there is nothing accidental about the death of an unarmed Black man by law enforcement. Our system is designed to maximize interactions between Black and brown people and police officers, which all but ensures that harm will happen. This is enforced through the practice of over-policing, initiatives that have justified increased levels of policing for the sake of the greater good, but often with adverse consequences (Scientific American).