Windcrest, TX – A small San Antonio suburb will begin testing a new cellphone app aimed at reducing interactions between law enforcement officers and motorists.
Drivers who opt into the Trusted Driver Program (TDP) enter their own identifying information, such as their name, address, insurance and vehicle information, email address, and any details they want to share about medical conditions or disabilities, WOAI reported.
Examples of such conditions could be “a heart condition, you have PTSD, you’re deaf, you have critical anxiety,” TDP Chief Developer Aric Jimenez explained.
TDP CEO Val Garcia said having that information will help an officer to decide whether to pull a driver over or to just send them a warning or citation.
“So, the officer knows how to interact and be able to deescalate that stop before it turns into a use of force, or, or a death to someone, whether it’s the officer or the motorist. That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Garcia told WOAI.
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here at Trusted Driver is minimize those interactions between the motorist and law enforcement officers,” he added.
TDP has been likened to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program at the airport, WOAI reported.
When an officer spots a traffic violation – such as someone using their cell phone while driving – they can type the driver’s license plate into the system to bring up the self-reported vehicle information.
“You’re within the Trusted Driver platform so they don’t need to pull you over,” Jimenez explained to WOAI. “They could just send you a warning. Hey, please…get off your phone…That’s it and at that point, you carry on your business, the officer knows documents that, and it’s logged forever.”
Police can also issue citations by email, which drivers can “pay or contest” through the TDP app, according to the TDP website.
Since all the information entered into TDP is self-reported by whoever enters it, it is unclear how officers will be able to verify the identity of the person who is actually behind the wheel at the time of the infraction.
The program also has an option for drivers to “connect with the court to discuss and resolve any issues” or to “meet with city leaders,” according to the TDP website.
Garcia said he and his co-developers created the Texas-based company after serving as law enforcement officers, WOAI reported.
“I saw many incidents where officers got themselves in trouble because they initiated a traffic stop. And maybe there was not enough cause for it or there’s not a reason for it, or they just couldn’t back down from it after the stop occurred,” he said.
Jimenez said the company believes it is best to keep police and drivers from interacting in person.
“If the officer could just have a conversation with you, on the side of the road, from this laptop to your cell phone and figure out what’s going on before they come into physical contact with you, it’s going to put us in a better place,” he told WOAI.
The free program launches in Windcrest Jan. 15.
“This program in my point of view, is an extra tool that’s provided to not only protect the public, but definitely to protect the police,” Windcrest City Manager Rafael Castillo told WOAI.
“We think it’s a benefit that all law enforcement will be able to take advantage of sometime down the road,” Windcrest Police Chief Darryl Volz added.
Chief Volz said his officers will be able to handle violations more quickly since citations will be emailed.
The chief said having access to self-reported disability and medical condition information will help prevent misunderstandings out in the field.
“If we know that ahead of time, then we can know things that may help make sense of the situation that may have seemed suspicious if we pulled them over,” he told WOAI. “But most of the time, we won’t even be pulling them over.”
The company is currently talking with government officials in 10 major cities about adopting the TDP in those jurisdictions, WOAI reported.