A Minneapolis tech company that created an app where drivers can video conference attorneys during traffic stops or after a car crash has partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to make its app free to residents of Brooklyn Center.

The partnership focuses on a city that was affected by a fatal police shooting in 2021 that led to more civil unrest across the Twin Cities in the wake of George Floyd's murder by police in 2020.

In April 2021, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, was fatally shot by police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop. Potter said she meant to use her Taser when she fired her handgun. After Potter fired one shot into Wright's chest, his vehicle sped off and crashed at the intersection. He died at the scene.

Potter was found guilty of manslaughter in December and earlier this year was sentenced to 24 months in prison for fatally shooting Wright.

The app, called TurnSignl, was created by three friends from the Twin Cities. A few months after Floyd's death, friends Jazz Hampton, Andre Creighton and Mychal Frelix, all Black men, quit their corporate jobs and formed a company to create an app to help keep drivers — and police officers — safe by de-escalating roadside interactions.

They launched the app in May 2021, just a month after Wright's death. Adding to their impulse to create the app was the police killing of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul in 2016.

Hampton, formerly a Twin Cities attorney, said the founders of TurnSignl met with Brooklyn Center's city manager, chief of police and a representative from Blue Cross toward the end of 2021, prior to Potter's trial, and offered to work with the city on making the app available to residents.

"We said, 'This is going to be something that we're rolling out, we want you all to be aware of it, and know we're here to be an app to bridge the gap,'" Hampton said.

All attorneys have to be trained in de-escalation by a third party before participating in the TurnSignl platform, Hampton said.

The Blue Cross partnership and funding of TurnSignl is part of a five-year engagement strategy the insurance company has with the city of Brooklyn Center. The pilot program with TurnSignl began in January and gives up to 3,000 residents of Brooklyn Center free access to the app for the year.

Blue Cross and TurnSignl have a multiyear plan to expand their partnership to other communities across Minnesota.

"Blue Cross' commitment to transforming our state and improving health cannot happen without a holistic approach to solving the systemic challenges of racism," said Bukata Hayes, vice president of racial and health equity at the insurer. "Those challenges are multifaceted, and need to include policy and systems change, creative solutions, as well as a narrative change in mainstream attitudes towards BIPOC communities."

Hampton and his co-founders have raised $2 million from investors to grow TurnSignl, with the most recent investor being Minneapolis-based Brown Venture Group, a $50 million venture fund focused on investments in startups led by Black, Latino and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

"The team at TurnSignl is top-notch," said Paul Campbell, co-founder and managing partner at Brown Venture Group. "We see talented BIPOC-led businesses from across the nation, however, TurnSignl's leadership team is amongst the best nationally. They just so happen to be right here in our own backyard. BVG is excited to join them on their journey."

TurnSignl is operational in Minnesota, Georgia and California for drivers and has surpassed 10,000 downloads. In addition to its consumer product, the startup is building its enterprise segment, where TurnSignl would be used as a benefit to employees, paid for by the employer.

"While TurnSignl was born out of our personal connection and desire to keep people safe after tragedies like Philando and George Floyd, and subsequently as we were building it Daunte Wright, we've learned the adoption with people outside of that demographic has been really accelerated," Hampton said.