Phone app lets users record interactions with police, get attorney advice

CHARLOTTE — On Wednesday, the family and loved ones of Tyre Nichols are expected to say their final goodbyes. Nichols died three days after Memphis police officers pulled him over during a traffic stop.

The body camera footage of his police encounter has some looking for solutions or ways to record their own experiences with police. Many have discovered a phone app that does that -- and more. Channel 9′s Tina Terry learned the creators of TurnSignl are now offering it for free to people in the Carolinas.

TurnSignl was created after several high-profile police cases. Its creators say it could help protect everyone during a traffic stop, so Terry took it to local experts to ask for their thoughts.

One woman told Terry about an encounter that she witnessed happening between someone else and the police.

“I heard him say he couldn’t breathe, so that’s why I went out there,” said parent Yolanda Sanders.

Sanders used her phone to record video when she heard the altercation between a young person and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police outside her home.

“I recorded it because I thought if it was my son, I would want someone out there to witness what was going on with him and the police,” she said.

She also offered him this advice:

“I said to him, to do as the police was asking him to do, because he was being combative and talking back,” Sanders said. “I’m like, ‘Just stay calm and do what they ask you.’”

The mobile app, which just launched in the Carolinas, is now offering similar help to people pulled over by law enforcement. TurnSignl allows users to record their interactions with police and, at the same time, access a live video chat with an attorney.

“I like the fact that there’s a recording, you are recording the interaction,” said defense attorney Mark Jetton.

Jetton said recording police encounters has become very common and can lead to transparency, but he has concerns about other aspects of the application.

“As an attorney, how can you really give on spot legal advice when you don’t really know all the facts of the scenario -- what is going on?” he asked.

Terry downloaded the app and chatted with an attorney on the other end who said he practices in North Carolina. She also reached out to TurnSignl online. A spokesperson sent a statement saying in part, “Attorneys on the TurnSignl app are vetted through their local bar associations and they go through our certified third-party de-escalation training.”

TurnSignl said it aims to protect its users’ civil rights and to keep roadside interactions from escalating -- something Sanders said there is a great need for.

“With all the things that are going on right now, I think it’s a good tool to have because it’s convenient,” she said.

On Tuesday, Terry reached out to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and to Rock Hill police asking their thoughts on the mobile application. Neither department has responded yet.

TurnSignl says it has 50,000 downloads nationwide. It just launched here in November -- it costs $60 a year but it is free for a year to people here in the Carolinas.

The app was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020. A spokesperson told Terry after the death of George Floyd and the reckoning that followed, its co-founders “felt they could no longer sit on the sidelines waiting for change, accountability, and resources that could provide live-saving access to justice.”

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