Citizen Drops Its Plan To Become Private Cops, Claims It Was Never Interested In Forming A Private Security Force

from the that's-not-a-squad-car,-it's-just-a-promo-for-a-nonexistent-service dept

Crime reporting app Citizen has had a pretty wild run in the past couple of weeks. Debuting rather inauspiciously as Vigilante back in 2016, the app was removed from Apple's store less than 48 hours after its first appearance. It relaunched the following spring as Citizen and remained just another competitor in the virtual Neighborhood Watch scene.

That all changed late last month. Citizen users and employees -- urged on by Citizen CEO Andrew Frame -- started a manhunt (with a $30,000 bounty) for an innocent homeless person Frame had decided was an arsonist. As the public was still digesting this news, Los Angeles residents spotted a Citizen-branded patrol car making the rounds. Shortly thereafter, current and former employees confirmed the company was interested in getting into the private security business with an eye on becoming more like cops and less like an informational app.

As all of this was going on, some hackers scraped Citizen's database of recordings and reports, providing a single source for nearly everything uploaded to Citizen, including recordings moderators had hidden from public view. It was also revealed Citizen's foray into public health had resulted in a leak of users' COVID status as well as other personal information.

Following a tumultuous half-week, Citizen announced it was abandoning its plan to move into the law enforcement business, something it had always supposedly planned to do and certainly completely unrelated to the steady stream of bad press.

The company began offering the service in Los Angeles last month as a pilot program. During the trial, the service, which included a company-branded squad car, was only available to company employees. For the service, Citizen partnered with a private firm called Los Angeles Professional Security, which describes itself as a provider of "subscription law enforcement."

But on Tuesday, Citizen ended the program, stating it has no plans to launch a similar service elsewhere.

"This was a small 30-day test that is now complete," a Citizen spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. "We have no plans to launch our own private security force and no ongoing relationship with LAPS."

But Citizen did have plans, at least according to sources Motherboard spoke to.

"The broad master plan was to create a privatized secondary emergency response network," one former Citizen employee told Motherboard. Motherboard granted multiple sources anonymity to protect them from retaliation from the company.

"It's been something discussed for a while but I personally never expected it to make it this far," another Citizen source told Motherboard.

So, this reversal seems to be a reversal, not simply the end of a test run. And if the company has no plans to launch a private security force, why waste the time and money equipping a squad car and sending personnel out to "patrol" Los Angeles? This sounds more like a plan being abandoned because the Overton Window didn't open quite as far as expected.

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Filed Under: crime reporting, private cops, private security, vigilante
Companies: citizen


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Jun 2021 @ 2:37am

    'We didn't want those grapes anyway...'

    Well that had to have been disappointing for the more gung-ho members of the company(first and foremost the bounty-setting CEO), they got caught out before their plans were able to come to fruition and it turned out that people didn't in fact want another group of people running around playing cops and robbers no matter how much the company clearly really wanted to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 9 Jun 2021 @ 5:04am

    So their plans to become cops

    have now LAPSed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2021 @ 5:23am

    Jhon Smith found lying again, news at 11...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Jun 2021 @ 5:27am

    I get the feeling Citizen wanted their security force to be less “police” and more “Punisher”, given that the app was originally named Vigilante.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2021 @ 1:24am

      Re:

      ...and given that Peter Thiel, participating founder of both the citizen app and Palantir, is solidly in the republican libertarian camp, I wouldn't really have been surprised to see this private enterprise version of police officers sporting trendy uniforms by Hugo Boss with Odal runes on their lapels.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2021 @ 6:03am

    the vaccination segregation is real

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2021 @ 8:03am

      Re:

      And where's the proof of your assertion?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 9 Jun 2021 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re:

        If by 'vaccine segregation' they mean that society is 'segregating' unvaccinated people by keeping away from them and making clear that they're not welcome in social gatherings even proof that it's real is missing the main point, that of demonstrating that that's a bad thing.

        People have a right to be stupid, even to the point that it puts their health and/or life at risk but that right does not include the right to put the health and lives of those around them at risk against the wishes of those people, and in the case of vaccination during a pandemic that's killed over half a million people in america alone society has a very good reason to not want to associate with those that refuse to get a gorram shot to drastically lower that risk.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2021 @ 1:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Isn't that the whole point though? The alt-right is finding out that being a deplorable and maliciously dangerous asshole means civilized society rejects them.

          And for this they want Uncle Sam to step in and declare assholes a protected species who must be treated with the care and tolerance they themselves refuse to extend to others.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 9 Jun 2021 @ 9:55am

      Re:

      There's an easy and free way to overcome any discrimination you feel you face due to your own stupidity,

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2021 @ 9:25pm

    At least they TESTED the plan first.

    It might have been well-intended way back when.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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