TurnSignl co-founder Jazz Hampton knows firsthand what it's like to be a statistic. The 31-year-old person of color from Minneapolis has been pulled over by police 12 times — and never been given a citation.

He and two friends are working to put an end to violent traffic stops by offering on-the-spot legal counseling to drivers with their new app, which connects drivers with attorneys through a video call service available 24/7.

The goal of TurnSignl is to protect drivers' civil rights while de-escalating tense roadside interactions, ensuring that both drivers and police officers can return home safely.

Hampton's co-founders, Andre Creighton and Mychal Frelix, grew up knowing Philando Castile's name, the Black man who was fatally shot by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.

Then, after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020, businesses and individuals flooded social media with promises to work toward racial justice. The trio quit their jobs to start designing TurnSignl.

"No one was doing something after the awareness," Hampton said, who has degrees in computer science and law. "No one was building something to make these interactions safer."

Roughly 40 days before the app was ready to launch, Daunte Wright was shot by a Brooklyn Center police officer at a traffic stop. Hampton said he can't help but wonder if the app would have saved the life of the 20-year-old Black man.

Frequent traffic stops are a reality for Black men in America, and they can often turn violent. In Minneapolis, police are seven times more likely to use force on people of color than their white peers, Hampton said, quoting New York Times research.

Anyone can download TurnSignl, which costs $60 a year to use. Those who make less than $40,000 a year can use it at no cost, while the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield MN provides the service to all residents of Brooklyn Center for free.

The app is available in six states: Minnesota, Georgia, California, Tennessee, Florida and Illinois. TurnSignl will connect callers with attorneys who have a knowledge of local law and are certified to work in that state. The attorneys are also trained on how to de-escalate tense situations by an accredited third party.

"You can be the best lawyer in the world, but we want to ensure that you're also knowing how to de-escalate these interactions and look for markers, both verbal and nonverbal, to know when things are escalating and how to respond appropriately," Hampton said.

Hampton says usership is driven by three demographic groups, which he calls the three P's: parents, partners and people of color.

When a mom is handing her 16-year-old the keys, she's going to feel safer when her daughter or son is out there driving with the TurnSignl app, Hampton said.

"I think it's really important to know that people just have peace of mind when they're driving," he said.

TurnSignl hopes to operate in every state in 2023. Hampton said he hopes society changes enough so that there will one day no longer be a need for the app.

"Nothing would make me happier," he said. Until then, he'll keep moving forward.

ThreeSixty Journalism

These stories were written by ThreeSixty Journalism's summer 2022 News Reporter Academy high school students. The academy and its theme of holistic health equity were supported by Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN, which connected students with story topics and sources.

ThreeSixty Journalism is leading the way in developing multicultural storytellers in the media arts industry. The program is a loudspeaker for underheard voices, where highly motivated high school students discover the power of voice and develop their own within ThreeSixty's immersive college success programming. Launched in 1971 as an Urban Journalism Workshop chapter, since 2001 the program has been part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. To learn more about ThreeSixty Journalism, visit threesixty.stthomas.edu.