In recent months we have received an increasing number of calls about police misconduct in the Hawthorne district. Members of the community have reportedly been harassed, mistreated and/or arrested at the urging of some area businesses. Further increasing tensions were the decisions by Coffee People to install an outdoor security camera and hire private security. As those who are usually subject to police (and private security force) misconduct in this area are young and lacking spending power, their interests and well-being are seemingly regarded as unimportant by some businesses. In response to these issues, Copwatch has initiated a beat on Hawthorne.
The right to observe the police in their interaction with the public is a basic civil right that most people never exercise. The usual response when police are taking action against a civilian is to turn one's head or leave the area. Copwatchers hope to encourage everyone to observe the
police in their daily relations with civilians, including searches and arrests. This is the most basic and grassroots way to build police accountability. As Copwatchers never interfere with police business, an officer who is without illegal or unethical intentions has no reason to resent Copwatchers. Copwatchers carry incident report forms, still cameras, and video cameras to document incidents of police misconduct and hold police accountable for their actions. Everyone participating in the Hawthorne beat project has received training from Portland Copwatch regarding relevant laws, rights, and nonviolence, but anyone can be a Copwatcher. The message here reaches beyond any particular neighborhood or police department. No beat can be everywhere all the time, but Copwatchers hope to provoke the thought that each and every one of us has the right to observe the police, and that eternal vigilance is the only thing that will bring true accountability. We urge everyone to be a Copwatcher wherever they go. More often than not, you may end up observing only a routine traffic stop where the officer is polite and respectful. All the better. Perhaps your presence encouraged that behavior. More importantly, when we begin to create communities in which everyone exercises their right to observe the police, we send a strong message that misconduct and brutality by those wielding power will be neither ignored nor tolerated.
Our previous beats in the downtown/Old Town area were discontinued in fall 1996 but we hope to get those going again sometime soon.
To get involved with this (or any other) project, or for information on starting a beat in your area, call Portland Copwatch at 236-3065. For information about Reed Copwatch, call the Student Action Office at 771-1112, x7875.
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