Jennifer Allan, a well-known activist in the Downtown Eastside, co-created DTES Cop Watch over a year ago as a new way to discourage police misbehaviour. The project uses social media to keep the police constantly in the public eye.
Like other police-monitoring organizations around the United States and Europe, DTES Cop Watch observes and documents police activity looking for police misconduct. It also posts the whereabouts of police officers on Facebook and Twitter and live-tweets arrests and searches performed by the law enforcers.
“Cop Watch is here to make sure [police officers] actually abide by their rules and [don’t abuse] their power,” Allan said.
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Even though DTES Cop Watch was created just over a year ago, its actions have already been acknowledged by the Vancouver police department. According to a report released by the VPD, five of the 35 public complaints submitted to the department about police misconduct originated from the cop-watch group.
But the group’s disclosure of police officers’ locations has also generated concern from police. On Feb. 25, the police department urged Twitter users to be conscious of safety and privacy issues when divulging officers’ whereabouts.
Allan believes that revealing police locations and filming officers while they are on duty is important in case an incident results in harm to a DTES resident.
“The purpose of us filming is so that if [a victim] gets beat up, we have proof right there. If nothing happens, I go home and delete the film,” said Allan.
Even though Allan doesn’t hide her dislike for police and the group has not shied away from posting controversial comments about the police in its social media accounts, she believes that the group is not anti-police. Her interest, she claims, is in the safety of the people of the DTES.
“We are angry with the police and we are angry [at] how they would abuse their power, but what we really want is change,” she said.