The Police Accountability Tour had the opportunity to meet with the creative individuals behind CopWatch of East Atlanta. Having been active in their area since the late aughts, the project established itself as a resource for the community, providing a phone number for people in need of a few individuals armed with cameras to reach out through. Following an experience-based set of collectively understood policies, CopWatch participants are also involved in other actions in the area, including Food Not Bombs.
Stemming from an incident in 2010, and complimented by a similar situation which occurred later, the Atlanta police department has now been specifically trained to permit videography and photography of themselves and their suspects and detainees from a reasonable distance. During the 2010 camera seizure, which helped shape CopWatch of East Atlanta’s policies as well as the police’s, a camera phone was taken from an activist by the police after multiple unlawful requests to terminate the recording. Eventually, the camera was wrestled away, and a revealing phone conversation with the property-seizing officer was documented and disseminated. The officer revealed that the person potentially videotaped being arrested may act as a confidential informant on an investigation. The camera phone would be returned on the condition that the police employee could be granted access to the footage and ensure its deletion. An audio recording of the telephone conversation would secure a $40,000 settlement for the group. Upon retrieving the footage, it was posted publicly in very damaged condition, possibly as a result of its poor handling in police custody, or through intentional sabotage. Since that time, CopWatch of East Atlanta has adopted policies to prevent the loss of objective documentation of a scene by working in groups, wearing uniforms, keeping distances between videographers, and observing numerous other safety precautions. Recently at the DeKalb County public library, the group offered to the public a know-your-rights training session. You can view the full session in a playlist on Fr33manTVraw. Check out CopWatch of East Atlanta’s website for links to resources, events, and previous media coverage. For more from the Police Accountability Tour’s Georgia stop, see Atlanta Police Not Too Talkative – Save for the Undercovers and Gwinnett County Employees Use of Forced Blood Draws.