Cop Watch Alliance
What is Cop Watch?
Cop Watch is the practice of monitoring and documenting police activity in order to deter abuse and killings. As long as you are not interfering with police activity, monitoring and documenting the police is legal and a constitutionally protected right.
The Black Panther Party was the first group to practice Cop Watch in an organized manner. At that time, in California where the Panthers were operating, it was legal to carry guns in plain view. The Black Panthers used this to their advantage - holding guns alongside their law books while they observed police interactions with community members.
Today, our cameras are our weapons and our work draws on the legacy of the Panthers.
Cop Watch empowers and increases safety in our communities. Through Cop Watch we:
- Document police interactions with community residents. Video documentation is turned over to community members to use in their own cases if needed. As a general rule, PJ does not post footage publicly out of respect for the privacy of the individuals being victimized by police, unless doing so will help advance justice and we receive permission.
- Prevent and de-escalate abusive policing. Demonstrating that the community is organized and watching, and that we have our cameras turned on the cops, helps to de-escalate potentially abusive situations.
- Build with, educate and mobilize our communities. While on patrols, team members hand out know your rights information, discuss the systemic problem of police violence with community members and encourage them to get involved in the broader movement.
- Spread a “culture of Cop Watch” in our communities. This is a culture in which we are all committed to monitoring the police (whether on teams or in our daily lives), holding the police accountable and to looking out for one another. It is a culture of valuing and promoting the self-determination, strength and safety of our communities.
- Shift power into the hands of our communities and out of the hands of the system.
Cop Watch is at once an act of solidarity, love and resistance.
Cop Watch Alliance
To help create a city-wide culture of Cop Watch, Peoples’ Justice coordinates a Cop Watch Alliance open to organizations and ad-hoc groups trained to conduct Cop Watch.
Alliance Teams all have access to:
- Cop Watch & KYR trainings
- Mentoring in the development of their team
- Cameras, walkie talkies & outreach materials free of charge
- Space to download footage to the PJ archive if they choose
- Our Cop Watch legal support network
- Quarterly meetings of the Alliance, which provide space for Cop Watch Alliance teams to build unity and cohesion, share skills and experiences, and dialogue about challenges and lessons learned.
Alliance Teams all agree to:
- Work toward the PJ city-wide goals and vision of Cop Watch as stated above
- Attend a PJ or PJ member organization’s Cop Watch training
- Conduct themselves in the spirit of accountability to the Alliance and their community
- Maintain a goal of conducting at least one patrol per month, continuing as temperature allows
- Document abuses by cops of all communities without discrimination based on (perceived) race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, immigration status, ability, etc.