Police on Playback — Copwatch in New York City


Stories of police brutality are often told in a way that casts victims as helpless bystanders of cops run amok.  We met with Sean Pagan, a recent victim of police violence, and found that his story changes how we think about policing in New York.  Sean’s story shows that communities are finding new and innovative tactics for dealing with discriminatory policing, beyond waiting for legislative reform.  One such tactic is copwatch, in which individuals or teams film police officers in action.  But what’s the history of the tactic?  What are the risks, limitations, and impact of filming the police?  And how do these videos change the way we understand narratives of police violence?

Produced for Waging Nonviolence by the New York Video League.  The New York Video League was founded this summer by Nate Lavey, Rachel Tomlinson, and Martyna Starosta.  Inspired by the Photo League, which was active from the 1930s to 1950s, the New York Video League is a journalism collective that aims to supply news organizations with short, compelling documentary work that explains and contextualizes undertold stories of political and social struggle.

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