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Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop, to Lead Police Tech Startup Callyo

The company has made a cellphone alternative to police body cameras.

Steve Ressler, who founded the government social networking and training website GovLoop, has become president of the police tech company Callyo.

Ressler is now the company’s president, with founder Chris Bennett transitioning to the role of chief product officer. There’s no designated chief executive officer.

Callyo’s primary offerings are two mobile applications for law enforcement: 10-21 Police Phone and 10-21 Video. The former is free, and allows police officers to make calls to citizens using their personal cellphones but without the citizen seeing the officer’s number.

The video version gives users the ability to record, stream and store video from their cellphones much in the way officers already do with cameras in squad cars and mounted on their uniforms. The difference is that 10-21 is offered on a “freemium” model — for free, users can stream video and store it for three days. If their department buys a subscription, they get a better storage model and more support.

It’s essentially designed to be a more affordable version of the increasingly popular police body-worn camera.

That’s the part of the business Bennett said he’s most interested in — not so much the business-sales-marketing-financial end of things.

“The way I see it, now I get to spend more time creating great products,” he said.

It helps that he has a history with Ressler. In fact, the two have known each other since 2009, and Bennett came to his wedding. But as Ressler built up GovLoop, which was acquired by GovDelivery and then later merged with Granicus, Bennett went on to create Callyo.

In January, Ressler stepped down from the presidency of GovLoop and started looking for other things to do.

“My passion has always been going back to the startup phase, and the question was do I want to go back to scratch on something or join something really exciting and put some fuel on the fire?” he said.

He went the latter route, joining Bennett with a company that’s seen pretty rapid growth — at least as far as its user count is concerned. Since the free 10-21 phone app launched in late 2015, the company has documented 100,000 officer users at more than 10,000 agencies.

“The great thing about that growth is it’s really been organic,” Ressler said. “And what I mean by that is we find it really only takes one or two officers in a department to start using 10-21, and then they start telling the other officers, ‘Hey, you’ve got to use this on your shift.’”

As the company looks to its video app for monetization, it will find itself involved in a complex national discussion about how to use police body cameras. Recently, in Sacramento, Calif., the local police department faced criticism because officers on the scene of the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, Stephon Clark, muted the audio on their body cams.

Then, national civil rights groups issued an open letter to the leading body camera vendor, Axon, urging it not to use its growing artificial intelligence capabilities to bring constant facial recognition capabilities to the technology.

Ressler said he’s cognizant of those discussions, and acknowledges that Callyo plays a part in determining how its users will use its products. But he feels policy is up to the police departments.

“We still make our judgment calls at the end of the day and ask, ‘Is this something that’s going to improve officer safety and citizen safety, or is this something that’s going to walk that fine line?’”

Video isn’t the end-all for Callyo, either. With Bennett focusing on products, the company wants to expand the services it offers law enforcement going forward.

“It’s kind of about building an ecosystem of mobile applications that are modern and lightweight,” Bennett said.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.