Monday, November 22, 2004

We Got The Camera: CopWatch Starts Patrolling Albuquerque

For Immediate Release:

We Got The Camera: Cop Watch Starts Patrolling Albuquerque
Email: Copwatch505 (at) riseup (dot) net

In response to incidents of police brutality a group of Albuquerque
residents have banded together to change the way police treat people. They
will soon be hitting the streets with bright orange shirts, knowledge of
the law, and video cameras aimed at local police.

Cop Watch seeks to change the ways in which police treat youth of color,
homeless people, and the public generally.

Cop Watch is hosting a training on how and why citizen monitoring of police
behavior is a good idea, how to be safe and effective, and what your legal
rights are when dealing with the police.

Inspired by the community cop watching patrols of the Black Panther Party
and the Brown Berets, the Cop Watch movement has grown in recent years to
include several groups across the country. The goal of CopWatch is to
change the behavior of the police, and in some cities, they have. In
Phoenix, AZ, police are now trained to always behave as if they are always
being filmed and watched by citizens. This was not part of their training
until Phoenix Cop Watch began patrolling.

Houston Cop Watch member Heather Ajani says that Cop Watch has changed
police behavior in cities like Phoenix and Houston. “When they are being
filmed, police are more polite and respectful of people they are
detaining, questioning, or apprehending.”

The impetus to start civilian patrols of the police in Albuquerque came
from a series of meetings that Vecinos United and other community based
organizations were having with victims of police brutality. Vecinos United
organizer Andres Valdez was part of the campaign which pushed the city to
create a Police Oversight Commission four years ago.

Now he says that the POC, lacking independence and authority has proved to
be “pretty much a rubber stamp for the police and they regard it as a
joke.” Valdez says that Cop Watch will be good because “Now we have to do
as much as we can for and by ourselves.”

Many victims of police brutality fear lodging formal complaints with the
city and say that police have engaged in intimidation to silence them.
Cop Watch hopes to change this by educating people about their legal rights
and working with community organizations to bring about justice.

The day long training session will be on December 4th at 929.5 4th St SW,
starting at 9:30 am. The training is free to the general public, but no
public or private law enforcement officers are allowed to attend. Coffee
and meals will provided. Those who need childcare should notify the
organizers. Those who wish to attend should RSVP by email or phone.

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