In recent years, videos of police have shifted the national discourse about systemic racism. As longtime Black and brown writers based in communities where police abuse is prevalent, we know the stories that need to be told are far beyond what is reported through mainstream media. New interventions in how we report on law enforcement are necessary to curtailing police power.
The COPWATCH.MEDIA model recognizes that citizen journalism is the answer. We embrace copwatch efforts by people around the world who have filmed police misconduct and see them not only as acts of concerned citizens, but as acts of journalism. We believe that as writers and media-makers of color who live and work in hyper-criminalized neighborhoods, we can tell the stories of our communities distinctly from the top-down and disproportionately white mainstream press.
We believe that tracking police and police brutality through a robust, interconnected and interactive database of misconduct, videos and stories helps us paint the bigger picture of what is happening to Black and brown communities through policing and incarceration.
COPWATCH.MEDIA is a media project based on the viewpoint of Black and brown writers and contributors and serves a community-facing alternative to predominantly white media.
Aaron Cantu is an investigative reporter with nearly a decade of experience covering law enforcement, the treatment of prisoners in jails and state and federal corrections facilities, and immigration policy under the Trump administration at the US-Mexico border, among other beats.
His stories have garnered awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the ACLU. Among other impacts, his work led to the exoneration of multiple prisoners, policy and state legislation changes concerning local law enforcement interactions with federal immigration authorities, and to a top board member of a major museum resigning in disgrace.
He has been published by Vice, The Appeal, The Intercept, The Nation, and other outlets, and he is currently a recipient of funding for his investigative reporting work by Type Investigations.
Raven Rakia is a journalist based in New York. She has covered the criminal legal system, police, protest movements, and the environment for the past eight years.
She has worked as a reporter at The Appeal and Grist Magazine and has written for The Intercept, Vice Magazine, The Nation magazine, and the Gothamist. In 2018, she was a finalist for a Livingston Award for an investigation on strip searches conducted on visitors in NYC jails.
Her reporting work has led the New York Police Department to stop arresting people for marijuana oil as well as strip searching victims to receive compensation for the violation of their rights.
Dennis Flores is a multimedia artist, activist and educator based in New York. One of the pioneers of the modern day copwatch movement in New York, Dennis began to organize patrols of everyday people to film and document police misconduct beginning in 1999. He is founder and lead organizer of El Grito, a grassroots community-based organization that advocates for the public’s right to film the police. El Grito organizes Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade, which created a celebration of Puerto Rican culture safe from police harassment.
In the mid-1990s, influenced by The Young Lords Party, he and the street organization he belonged to – deemed a gang by law enforcement officials – began organizing around social justice issues. He and others began to organize with families of victims of the police amid the political unrest of the Rudy Giuliani era in New York City. The use of video to not only expose police brutality, but to help exonerate those who were arrested and criminally charged, laid the foundation for the growing police accountability movement seen across the country today.
Today, Dennis is a frequent speaker, commentator, and community advocate. You can follow him on Twitter at @dennisflores.
Josmar Trujillo is an activist and writer based in Spanish Harlem. He has written on policing, education, housing and disaster recovery.
His work has been published in the New York Daily News, Newsday, amNY, the Huffington Post, Gothamist, City Limits, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), In These Times, The Appeal, Truthout, the Manhattan Times and Crain’s NY.
Ashoka Jegroo is a multimedia journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Along with documenting and reporting on protests, police, and the policing of protests, his written work covers state violence against oppressed communities, radical political movements, and the fight against fascism.
He has bylines in The Santiago Times, The Appeal, Truthout, Gothamist, Shadowproof, and other outlets. He has also covered protests in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Santiago, Chile. You can find him live-tweeting protests, exposing police lies, and critiquing mainstream media on Twitter at @AshAgony.