Report on the 1st International Copwatch Conference
by Dan Handelman
Close to 200 people from as far away as Winnipeg (Mantioba) and Brooklyn (NY) attended the
First International Copwatch Conference in Oakland from July 13-15. I was able to represent
Portland Copwatch, meet up with old colleagues, and make new connections.
The conference was mostly for groups who do on-the-street Copwatching, but also included
broader strategy questions around police review boards, government repression (such as the arrest
of the "San Francisco 8"--former Black Panthers now widely considered to be political prisoners)
and police/mental health issues.
In addition to the opening night session with Black Panther Eldred "Big Man" Howard, who
recounted the patrols the BPP established in the 1960s that led to the modern Copwatch movement
in Berkeley and elsewhere, I was able to attend three workshops of 18 offered. The first, on Video
Activism, was taught by Josh Wolf, the man who spent more time in jail than any journalist in U.S.
history (seven months) for refusing to give over his raw footage of a protest action at which people
were arrested. Because of Wolf's experience, the class focused mostly on ethical questions
regarding publishing footage you gather while copwatching.
The second workshop was planned to be about alternatives to the police. I was encouraged that the
first speaker, Andrea Ritchie of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, recognized that the gains
made by the community in having educated the system that domestic violence is a serious crime
have been offset by the overzealous way police respond to such incidents. The participants
discussed issues of class, gender and race privilege in the police accountability movement--a worthy
topic--but never really presented concrete suggestions on building institutions people can call
instead of the cops.
The final workshop was a "Your Rights and the Police" training for trainers. I picked up a few ideas
which we hope to incorporate into future trainings here in Portland.
A network will be created for the copwatch groups--a movement, not a franchise--to stay in touch
and share strategies, tactics, and news.
Thanks to Berekeley Copwatch (BCW) for hosting and Phoenix Copwatch for co-planning the
event with BCW.