David Price was 13 when he had his first troubling encounter with police. The New Orleans native was home alone when the house alarm unexpectedly went off and triggered the alarm company’s phone call to authorities.
“I remember hearing a car door slam, and I just figured it was my mom or dad coming home to check on me,” the now 19-year-old told In The Know. “And so I peeked out my blinds, and I saw two police cars outside my house.”
Nervous and unsure of what to do, Price immediately called his parents, who told him to remain calm and wait to see if officers would approach his door. When one of the officers eventually rang his doorbell, the teenager hid in his closet, hoping that law enforcement would leave.
“I thought I heard the car door slam once again, as if [the police] were leaving,” he recalled. “So I peeked out my blinds, and I saw one of the officers standing by a tree in front of our house, which is right by my bedroom window. I quickly closed the blinds back and went back in my closet, and I called my mom and dad to tell me what was going on.”
While waiting for his parents to get a hold of his grandfather (who would later diffuse the situation), Price looked out of his window a third time, only to find that an officer had drawn his gun on him.
“That experience, to me, was just really eye-opening because it just showed how quickly things can turn bad during interactions with officers,” he said.It also, unfortunately, highlights the often complicated relationship between law enforcement and the Black community. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Black adults have reported being in situations where people acted suspicious of them because of their race or ethnicity.
Growing up, Price said that his parents frequently reminded him and his siblings about “how things could go sour when interacting with the police.”
“The talk started getting more and more serious as I came to driving age,” Price said. “When I turned 16 and I got my driver’s license and they got me my car and they sat me down and had to talk with me, it was just much more in-depth. There was no sugarcoating involved.”
The conversation (or the “talk,” as many call it) that Price had with his parents is, in fact, common among Black families. As a Black motorist, Price faces a higher risk of getting pulled over than his white peers. And, by all accounts, the numbers appear to confirm this disheartening reality.
In 2019, researchers at Stanford University analyzed about 100 million traffic stops conducted between 2011 and 2017 across 21 state patrol agencies and 29 municipal police departments. They found that law enforcement had stopped and searched Black and Latinx drivers based on less credible evidence than used in stopping white drivers. In some of those instances, the stops led to fatal confrontations, like the case of Philando Castile in 2016 and many others.
In Price’s view, it was clear that something needed to be done. Though he had thought about designing an item that would help foster safer interactions between police and drivers, he didn’t actually follow through with the idea until he took a business seminar class at Loyola University New Orleans this year. There, he designed The Safety Pouch.
“It took me about three months to get the first prototype of The Safety Pouch actually made,” Price, who is now a sophomore majoring in political science, said. “And then, from there, we were going back and forth with refining the pouch until … about five months later, we had the final version of the pouch.”
Working with his professor, a designer and several police officers who lived in his neighborhood, the college student came up with a pocket that keeps vehicle documents and identifications in one place. Available in fluorescent orange, the pouch has a clear plastic slot that allows officers to easily look at the documents stored in it. It also has a clip that can attach to a vehicle’s exterior window, minimizing any driver movement within the car that could potentially provoke unnecessary use of force.
“I didn’t think anything would ever really be of it up until I got to college and I got to present it as a project,” Price admitted. “And once I presented it to my class and my professor and I saw how everybody loved it, my professor … reached out to me at the end of the semester saying, ‘Oh, I think you should do this as an actual product.'”
In addition to selling The Safety Pouch online, Price has since presented it to police departments and public officials across the country. In New Orleans, he spoke with council members and the superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, the latter of whom suggested that the teenager should help familiarize local officers with the device.
“Police have been extremely accepting of the product because not only is it making things safer for the drivers but for them as well,” he said. “One of their number one fears during traffic stops are people reaching into places they can’t see because … they don’t know what state of mind the driver is in and what their intentions could be.”
“I figured people would respond that way because of what the product was and what it was going to solve,” Price said. “But I never thought it would have gained as much ground as it has. I didn’t think so many people would be interested in it.”
For Price, the dream is that The Safety Pouch will, at the very least, limit some of the safety risks that the Black community experiences regularly.
“My goal with The Safety Pouch is to hopefully use it to kind of help build trust back up,” he said. “Just a little bit to help bring unification back … I think how a lot of things are portrayed in the media is not necessarily how it really is. So, my goal is to hopefully just show more of a human side of how we can solve the problem versus just adding fuel to the fire.”
If you would like to read more stories like this, you might want to read about Adrian Brandon, who paints portraits of Black lives lost to police violence.
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