Tales Of The (Video)Tape

The following is a small sampling of what happened on Phoenix Copwatch patrols, taken from Copwatch Incident Report sheets.

FEBRUARY 25, 1999
The cops had a car with five Chicanos pulled over on a dark, dead-end street. We came up to the scene, announced our presence and started videotaping. When the intervener shouted from across the street, "We're from Copwatch. We're not cops or part of any law enforcement agency. We're just ordinary citizens who observe and videotape the police to prevent against police brutality and harassment," the people in the car started clapping!

Our second intervention was in a neighborhood in central Phoenix, where the cops pulled over a couple Chicano youth pretty much just because they were driving a lowered minivan (that's what we heard the cops say on our police scanner). When we arrived the cops were pouring out a can of beer. One kid in cuffs was sitting on the curb. They let the kids go but made them walk home.

MARCH 8, 1999
The police had four young Chicano youths pulled over. One of them waved when we rolled up on the scene and announced who we were. The cops found a can of spray paint in their car and gave the kids a lecture about huffing paint (we couldn't tell if they were huffing paint; they didn't seem high at all). They then proceeded to search their whole car and called their parents. After the cops left we got a chance to talk to the people and explain who we are.

JANUARY 1, 2000
We were patrolling Mill Avenue when we saw 6-10 cops (on horse, foot, and bicycle) converge on a truck in front of Coffee Plantation. The cops yanked the driver out of the truck and threw him to the ground. Two cops cuffed him, picked him up, and took him around the corner. We pursued and videotaped. The driver had a bruise above his left eye, possibly from being thrown to the ground. We got names of all the officers involved as well as the license plate numbers of their cars. When we first asked for the information the supervisor on the scene (Sgt. K. Shrayer) refused, telling us it was "private information." Our intervener said, "Fine, we'll look it up later, then." The sergeant quickly admitted it was public information after all, and answered our questions.

JANUARY 28, 2000
The cops had a white minivan pulled over on 24th Street and Thomas. They gave the driver a sobriety test while his four friends waited in the van. One of the officers pulled out a 35mm camera and tried to take our picture. We refused, knowing that such pictures are often used to compile "gang profiles." He insisted, saying "Come on, it's equal rights. You taped me, why can't I take a picture of you?" Our intervener plainly told him that we have a right to videotape him while he's doing public business but he has no right to take our picture when we are not under arrest. He finally backed down.

After the police left, the friends of the driver thanked us for taping the incident. One of them said that if we hadn't been there the police would have searched the van and everyone in it, even though they have no right to search passengers in such incidents.

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copyright 1999