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Copwatch is a network of United States volunteer organizations that "police the police". Copwatch groups usually engage in monitoring of the police, videotaping police activity, educating the public about police misconduct, and advocating for more accountable law enforcement practices.
The modern concept of copwatching is based on a model of police accountability used by the Black Panther Party, in which members of the Party followed police officers on patrols in poor African-American neighborhoods. The Panthers would intervene when the police became intimidating or abusive to black people they had detained.
The first group to call itself Copwatch started in Berkeley, California in 1990. There are now numerous Copwatch groups in cities throughout the United States, and more continue to sprout each year. Each group is autonomous and self-governing, but most groups share common goals: exposing police misconduct, preventing police brutality, defending the rights of civilians, and working towards police accountability.
The main function of most Copwatch groups is monitoring police activity. "Copwatchers" go out on foot or driving patrols in their communities and videotape interactions between the police and civilians. Some groups also patrol at protests and demonstrations to ensure that the rights of protesters are not violated by police officers. Copwatch organizations generally abide by a policy of non- intervenience with the police, although this may not be true for all groups.
Copwatch groups also hold "Know Your Rights" forums to educate the public about their legal and human rights when interacting with the police, and some groups organize events to highlight problems of police abuse in their communities.
The Copwatch.com website provides a database of reports of police misconduct and forums for the general public to discuss issues of police abuse. This site is not officially endorsed by a Copwatch organization, and has been criticized both for its confrontational tone and its alleged publication of personal information of police officers. One of the tactics advocated by the owners of this site is the "two person protest", intended to raise public awareness using a small number of people.
- Daniel J. ChacÃ³n, "When cops allegedly step out of line, group steps up pressure", Rocky Mountain News, November 18, 2005, Sec. News, Pg. 31A.
- Russ Schanlaub, "Anti-Police Internet Sites", Law and Order, December 2005. Online version
- Matt Leedy, "Dozens learn to tape police - Copwatch leader gives Fresnans tips on safely monitoring officers.", Fresno Bee, Aug. 28, 2005, Sec. News, Pg. B1.
- "Houston PD wants Copwatch on its side", Law Enforcement News, October 31, 2002, Vol. XXVIII, No. 586. Online abstract
- "Arizona vigilantes look for police abuse", Crime Control Digest, Washington: Jan 5, 2001, Vol. 35, Iss. 1; pg. 4.
- Tim Dees, "Anti-police sites", Law and Order, Wilmette: Jun 2001. Vol. 49, Iss. 6; pg. 25.
- COPSHOTS.org: Documenting Police Brutality; Documenting the Police
- Copwatch Database
- Copwatch Forums
- Copwatch 101 Pamphlet
- Austin Copwatch
- Bay Area PoliceWatch
- Berkeley Copwatch
- Denver Copwatch
- Illinois Copwatch
- Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (Brooklyn)
- New Brunswick, NJ Copwatch
- Phoenix Copwatch
- Portland Copwatch
- Reedley, CA Copwatch
- Baltimore Copwatch
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