Santa Cruz Copwatch is a group of volunteer activists dedicated to monitoring the police and protecting the rights of people in police encounters. Founded in 2020, we have modeled ourselves after Berkeley Copwatch. Santa Cruz Copwatch surveils police communications and deploys volunteers to the site of local law enforcement encounters to record police actions. We do not interfere with police or intervene physically in the encounters we observe. We believe that community surveillance of police activity is itself an important act of community defense that helps to prevent police brutality and helps hold police somewhat accountable. We hope to empower the public to become civilian copwatchers and educate others about their rights during encounters with police. Santa Cruz Copwatch grew out of the movement to defund the police and reconsider the role of policing in society. Our goals are inspired by Berkeley Copwatch and similar efforts across the nation.
- Reduce police violence by directly observing the police on the street, documenting incidents and keeping police accountable through the use of our data. We maintain practices of non-violence while asserting the rights of detained and stopped persons. We provide support to victims whenever possible. We also seek to educate the public about their rights, police conduct and issues related to policing in our society.
- Unite and empower the community to resist police abuse. We do this by sharing information with the community, conducting “Know Your Rights” trainings, sponsoring rallies, supporting victims and other community-based efforts to deal with the problem.
- Encourage people to solve problems without police. We want to explore and practice alternatives to calling the police.
- Encourage people to exercise their right to observe the police and to advocate for one another.
Empower Through Accountability
Our main tactic in copwatch is to discourage police brutality and harassment by letting the cops know that their actions are being recorded and that they will be held accountable for harassment and abuse. To this end we will:
- Record incidents of abuse and harassment
- Work with victims to create a strategy for justice
- Provide information to the person arrested/violated
- Follow through on complaints
- Publicize incidents of abuse and harassment (must be strategic)
- Example of strategy: The video of George Floyd being murdered was released after the cops released a false narrative, making media attention much wider. It is important to discuss with the team before releasing videos. It also may be used for the victim’s day in court.
Archive data to be used in future actions.
Empower Through Community
As people on the streets serving the public, we are not only concerned with the cops. We are concerned about the PEOPLE. Our effectiveness as COPWATCHERS will be greatly enhanced if we are trusted by the community. During our shifts, we must try to get to know the people who hang out on the street. Building relationships is crucial. We can listen to people and help when it is possible. This aspect of COPWATCH depends on the willingness of the members to get to know and appreciate the street community.