Color of Change, Peoples’ Justice, Communities United for Police Reform Launch Website to Empower Community Members to Monitor Police
Color of Change, Peoples’ Justice and Communities United for Police Reform launched a new website, Cop Watch NYC (www.copwatchnyc.org), to empower and encourage New Yorkers to monitor the police through a practice known as “Cop Watch.” Cop Watch is the entirely legal practice of monitoring and documenting police activity in order to deter abusive policing, educate community members about their rights, and hold the police accountable for unfairly targeting and criminalizing specific communities, based on race, income, sexual orientation, and immigration status.
Cop Watch NYC is intended to grow and sustain Cop Watch practices and police accountability by offering visitors the opportunities to learn more about the practice, share best practices, and access and upload content of actual Cop Watch videos. The website offers resources, the platform, discussion forum, and networking space necessary to help foster a lively and connected movement for police accountability.
“The groundswell of opposition to discriminatory policing in New York City has been unprecedented,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange. “ColorOfChange members understand that a court order, and legislation are positive steps to reforming policing tactics, but we also have to address a culture of the NYPD that promotes racial bias and discrimination. If enough New Yorkers commit to getting involved, we can curb abusive police behavior that divides our city and makes innocent folks feel like criminals in their own neighborhoods.”
Cop Watch NYC will help to ensure New Yorkers are fully knowledgeable of their rights during a police stop and to monitor police encounters. The website is based on the theory that a network of connected and supported individualscan help change the culture of police impunity and violence by exerting their rights and organizing for just policing. It provides a valuable new organizing tool that encourages New Yorkers to actively and safely observe, film and report police encounters in order to fight back against police violence and hold officers accountable when they breach the public trust.
“It is our right and duty to demand police accountability to the community and equal rights and treatment of all,” said Steve Kohut, a representative of Peoples’ Justice, which has been training groups of New Yorkers around the city to safely and legally observe and document police conduct. “Absent legislative intervention or a sweeping court order, it becomes incumbent upon us, when we see a police officer doing something wrong, to record and share. Failure to act after witnessing even what appears to be the smallest violation only sets the stage for even more egregious injustices.”
The organizers noted that with hundreds of thousands of stops a year, impacted communities have grown mistrustful of the police and situations often get out of hand. Peoples’ Justice has coordinated a Cop Watch Alliance, which brings together Cop Watch teams from across NYC to share experiences and best practices, pool resources, and help build a citywide “culture of Cop Watch.” The coalition has also held Cop Watch trainings throughout the City to teach more New Yorkers about the practice and help them create teams in their neighborhoods.
“If the police think the cameras are always rolling they will think twice before engaging in discriminatory policing tactics,” said Aidge Patterson, the Coordinator of Peoples’ Justice. “And with community members empowered to stand up for their rights, we can help ensure greater police accountability.”
The creation of the website comes shortly after Communities United for Police Reform launched a non-partisan citywide campaign to encourage the thousands of New Yorkers impacted by stop-and-frisk and other discriminatory policing practices to become active in the 2013 elections. It began with an effort to register thousands of new voters – many of whom have been directly affected by discriminatory policing – from across the city.
The use of stop-and-frisk has increased by more than 600% during the Bloomberg administration. New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD over half a million times in 2012 and over 5 million stops have been made throughout the Bloomberg administration. Nearly nine in ten of those stopped were neither arrested nor issued a summons, and nearly 90% of those stopped were Black or Latina/o. Despite the 600% increase in the use of stop-and-frisk during Mayor Bloomberg’s three terms, the number of gun violence victims in New York City has remained nearly the same.
ColorOfChange exists to strengthen Black America’s political voice. Our goal is to empower our members - Black Americans and our allies - to make government and corporations more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone.
ABOUT PEOPLES’ JUSTICE
Peoples’ Justice for Community Control and Police Accountability (PJ) is a New York City coalition of grassroots organizations working in Black, Latino/a, Asian and LGBT communities. The coalition was formed in the wake of the 2006 New York City Police Department killing of Sean Bell and shooting of Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman in order to respond to the incident and hi-light the systemic nature of police violence. After verdict in the Sean Bell case, the coalition took on a more proactive approach and developed a long-term strategy to contribute to the movement for police accountability through community education, empowerment and organizing. As part of this strategy, PJ coordinates a Cop Watch Alliance, which brings together Cop Watch teams from across NYC to share experiences and best practices, pool resources, and help build a citywide “culture of Cop Watch.” The leading organizations of the coalition include CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Justice Committee and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.