Copwatchers: The activists using cameras to fight back against police brutality in the US.
“We want to deter police abuse...If our cameras are out there, it’s going to help present it, so they know there is extra eyes on them. These cameras are bad cop repellents.” - Dennis, Copwatcher
In New York City, a controversial group of citizen activists patrol the streets, capturing police officers on camera as they work.
“I got this on film. He does not consent to a search. So guess what’s going to happen when you get to court (with) this video? Bye bye!” - Kim, Copwatcher
They’re part of a US wide movement taking on police departments following a succession of deaths of black men and boys at the hands of police.
“The officer had his knee on Eric’s neck like this. And basically holding him down, trying to restrain him while other officers was twisting his arm.” - Ramsey, Copwatcher
In the age of smart phones and social media, many of these deaths have been captured on camera. One of the first was Eric Garner. The confronting footage of his death, as he was held down in a chokehold by a group of officers, captured the nation’s attention. Garner’s dying pleas of “I can’t breathe” became the catchcry of protestors demanding justice.
“My main goal is to put pressure on cops. Once they see a camera in somebody’s hand ... or a phone in somebody’s hand, they will think twice.” - Ramsey, Copwatcher
On Monday night Four Corners brings you the story of these “Copwatchers” as they roam the streets of New York, listening in to the police radio, then race to film the arrests and the behaviour of the NYPD.
“I know I come across as very aggressive and very militant and I am. And I am unapologetic about it because...day to day I see police harass people.” - Kim, Copwatcher
In this raw, fast moving film, the copwatchers engage in tense exchanges with the police. Sometimes they are arrested.
Despite their provocative approach, they have support from some unlikely quarters.
“I think everybody who owns a camera now, everyone who owns a cell phone, should be a part of copwatch...every time you see something going on you should take the picture.” - Retired NYPD officer
Copwatchers, from the BBC and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 24th October at 8.30pm on ABC & iview. It is replayed onTuesday 25th October at 10am and Wednesday 26th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8pm AEDT, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners