‘Copwatch’ Documentary Aims To Expose Cases of Police Brutality


    In many areas of the country, police brutality is becoming a hot button issue. To explore this issue, Baltimore activist Kevin Moore has created the new documentary, “Copwatch.”

    Baltimore residents may remember Moore from his involvement in the Freddie Gray case. Moore captured the moments leading up to Freddie Gray’s disappearance into the Baltimore Police Department transport van. Gray later suffered from fatal injuries during what has since been referred to as a “rough ride,” although the police officers involved in the incident disputed that account.

    After the case became a national controversy and a flash point for the Black Lives Matter movement, all charges were dropped against the police officers involved. Several are still undergoing disciplinary procedures, but the Justice Department has officially announced its intent to omit federal charges.

    That was the motivation behind Moore’s documentary. Moore is a member of We Copwatch, an anti-police brutality organization that includes a number of prominent videographers: David Whitt, who recorded the police response to the killing of Michael Brown, Ramsey Orta, who recorded the killing of Eric Garner, and Jacob Crawford, who has been recording all sorts of police encounters for the past 15 years.

    In its entirety, “Copwatch” is the culmination of years’ worth of footage from Moore, Whitt, Orta, And Crawford. It also features footage that originated from the crew of Camilla Hall, the director of the film and a former reporter for the Financial Times.

    A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 66% of officers and 93% of the public favor the use of body cameras by officers to record interactions with citizens. However, the footage in “Copwatch” solely comprises phone cameras to give the film the “intimacy of what it’s like to be alone in a copwatch,” Hall told Afro.

    “Even though we really pared down our crew, that was something so valuable that we were able to get from all the different cameras,” said Hall.

    Over one-third of law enforcement officer deaths over the last 10 years were caused by gunshots, making shootings the second leading cause of police officer death (after motor vehicle crashes). Still, the creative minds behind “Copwatch” want to change the way police officers are held accountable.

    “Police officers loom large in the frame, and never look down into cameras, giving an impression of disinterested giants barely able or willing to communicate with the activists asserting their First Amendment rights and asking for space to work,” writes J.K. Schmid on Afro. “Real alienation sets in moments where officers advance slowly on the camera repeating orders and ignoring questions. The work appears emotionally exhausting.”

    Copwatch” was set for limited release on September 22 and has since been released via video-on-demand.