This document seeks to impart on the reader some best-practices to be effective and safe when Copblocking. It was created by Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman (and thus does not speak for others involved at the decentralized CopBlock.org).
Goal: Transparency, safeguard individual rights, outreach, erode violence-based monopoly
Overview: Armed with cameras, communication and more, Copblockers proactively respond to and document police stops.
Details: Set a time and place to meet-up with other Copblockers. Don’t waste your time in sparsely-populated part of town, instead, head to areas with heavy foot traffic or where police harassment is known to occur.
You may want to meet at a location different than the area you plan to patrol for two reasons. First, use it as a time to make sure everyone is on the same page. Folks may RSPV on a Facebook event but you won’t know until it’s go-time how many people will participate and what technology they’ll bring. Also, you may have some new-comers. Use this time to answer their questions and set them at ease by reviewing possible scenarios. Second, if your patrol is to include a mobile unit (see below) other vehicles can be left behind, which can mean lower (or no) meter or garage expenses (since Copblocking is usually done in dense urban areas) and a safer location.
While it may seem a good idea for everyone to split-up to cover more ground, it’s much safer when Copblocking to be in pairs, if not more numerous teams. Each team should have at least two people with cameras. The more the better. Alternatively, one activist with a camera and a second activist with a livestreamed-enabled smart phone is a good combination since content on the latter can’t be deleted by aggressive strangers wearing badges.
Information is power. Share cell phone and emergency contact information with a friend or those on another team before heading out. If possible, bolster your effectiveness by having at least one radio per team (to communicate) and at least one person monitoring area police scanners (more below). Have handouts – such as quarter-sheet flyers, stickers or business cards to distribute. When Copblocking you’ll meet a lot of receptive people – if you can provide them with a resource they’ll be much more likely to follow-up later and may even one day join you on the streets or donate to help you continue your activities.
- Camera A – point person closest to scene that uses livestreaming technology if available (free smartphone app). Each situation is different but generally it’s a good idea to approach a scene in the line of sight of the cop, both for your safety and so they can’t claim they were caught off-guard. If the scene is a traffic stop and the cop is running information in their cruiser it could be a good opportunity to communicate with the person stopped.
- Camera B – back-up person at periphery armed with a video camera. If the point person (Camera A) is arrested or their camera is stolen, safeguarding footage of the incident is paramount. If the point person ends up in court the footage collected by the back-up person (Camera B) will ensure the person wearing a badge doesn’t create a reality that exonerates their actions. Use of a monopod – which is lighter and more compact than a tripod is suggested for clarity of video.
- Mobile Unit – vehicle(s) involved in Copblocking activity expand the range of coverage and can act as transports for Copblockers if needed. Though it’s not mission-critical it often helps to have wheels when on patrol. At a minimum two individuals should be in each mobile unit – one to focus on driving and a second to maintain communication with those on foot and film. The second person can also monitor scanner traffic if so-equipped. Usually it’s a good idea for the vehicle to be driven by the owner, since they know where their line is. Keep in mind – it’s far easier for someone with a badge to “legally” stop and harass you when driving a vehicle than when on foot. This is especially at night when a burnt-out taillight may give someone wearing a badge the belief they can stop and harass you. If you do plan on driving, mitigate such risks. Have a friend do a walk-around of your vehicle while you test brakes, turn signals and reverse lights. Also, feel free to stay out of sight. Park along a curb on a busy street near an intersection to have eyes down four streets. Radio in locations of incidents to your colleagues on the ground, or drop them off a block or two away.
- Scanner – person can be stationary at their residence or another offsite location listening to a scanner or via an Internet feed on their computer or mobile in a vehicle or on bicycle/foot with a handheld scanner or via free smartphone app (for Droid search Market for “Scanner Radio”).
As with any other skill, to continue to improve it’s important to reflect on what went well and areas that could be done different. Solicit feedback from those who participated in the Copblocking. Share content
- Charge all electronic devices such as cameras, phones, radios, etc. before heading out. Carry spare batteries just in case.
- Always document your interactions with individuals who claim to protect your rights. If you wind up in court without video or audio evidence it’ll be your word against theirs. Almost without exception courts side with them.
- Leave a resource with those whom you interact. Almost without exception, whatever you do it’s important to carry materials to leave with those you meet – a flyer, CopBlock.org business card, DVD or your own contact info. The more tangible the connections between you and those in your area the sooner you’ll achieve your goal.