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The App That Shouldn’t Exist: PulledOver Strives To Deliver Transparency In Police Interactions


MattStaufferMatt can’t remember the exact moment he knew he needed to build PulledOver.

At first, hearing news that another person of color had been killed during a routine traffic stop felt like a new and fresh outrage. But within a short period of time there was another story, and another. The outrage that had at first felt fresh now became uncomfortably familiar. And at some point, knowing that this was such a common occurrence took it out of the news cycle and brought it close to home–what if his friends and family became the next news story? Matt pulls no punches when addressing it.

“The fact that someone can get pulled over and end up dead purely because of the color of their skin is completely at odds with everything we think about modernity in America. It is horrible. It makes your heart sink.”

Keeping Loved Ones in The Know

PulledOver can’t solve the problems that necessitate its existence, but it can offer some peace of mind. Using Twilio, PulledOver lets anyone with a phone, smartphone or otherwise, record an interaction with police via a phone call.

You sign up, register and verify your number, and add the numbers of any friends or family you want notified. By calling the Twilio-powered PulledOver number, you initialize a voice recording. When the call ends (for any reason), that recording is sent via text to all of the contacts you’ve registered with PulledOver.

“The concern is that there is immediate danger. Your family needs to know about it immediately,” says Matt. A simple voice recording via a phone call gives the user an opportunity to log essential details of where they are and what led to the stop. Once the call is terminated and the user’s friends and family are notified, they can act quickly based on the information.

The crux of PulledOver is transparency. Families and friends shouldn’t have to rack themselves with worry when their loved one is pulled over. People who are stopped should be empowered with an account of what happened. It is a tool for documentation and dissemination. It’s also a tool Matt never expected to build.


Building A Tool You Never Wanted To Have To Build

“As a technologist, there’s not often many opportunities for me to actually make a change,” says Matt. “The initial catalyst for PulledOver was ‘What can I do to provide my wife with some sort of facility for recording and telling me when something’s wrong? What can I do with something that’s not targeted at hyper technological people like me, but like very normal iPhone users?’”

Matt’s goal was to create technological bridge, not a barrier. If PulledOver was only for iOS, only for Android, or required an app installation he would have alienated a large part of people his service aims to serve. “The concept of limiting the facility of something like this to people who own a particular brand, a particularly more expensive brand, seems silly,” said Matt. “Everybody knows how to use a phone. Access was 100% the reason I chose to use Twilio and do it this way.”

Matt is referring to access in a technical sense in addressing the scope of people who can use PulledOver. But, by proxy, he’s referring to something much more important that underlies his app — access to a life without looming fear. It’s not something that can be engineered into existence. But hopefully that fear can be engineered away, one line of code and one phone call at a time.

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