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HISTORY (draft)

March 1990

Copwatch begins street patrols to document police harassment of homeless people on Telegraph Avenue.

May 1990

Copwatch's Newsletter, the "Copwatch Report" debuts, highlighting patterns of intimidation, selective enforcement, misinformation and excessive oversight by police against Southside's population.


July 1990


Copwatch holds its first "Know Your Rights" training. Over the next decade hundreds of trainings, orientations and forums on police accountability follow, held at churches, schools, youth groups, community centers, parks and at Berkeley's Grassroots House (home of the Copwatch Office).


November 1990

Police brutally beat Osha Nuemann, a civil rights attorney and Berkeley Police Review Commissioner; Copwatch protests and demands accountability.

January 1991

UC Berkeley PD seize the Free Box out of People's Park. Copwatch helps organize protests; the Free Box was re-established.

Summer 1991

People's Park Demonstrations: Copwatch documents police brutality, protests the use of rubber bullets, files complaints and leads demonstrations at the Berkeley Police Commission.

July 1991

Local needle exchange activists harassed. Copwatch documents arrests; information is later used to build court defense.

April 1992

Verdict exonerating police involved in the Rodney King beating is announced—Copwatch organizes a peaceful protest in response that draws 2,000 to the corner of San Pablo and University Avenue.

May 1992

Copwatch and other justice groups form the Bay Area Coalition for Police Accountability, a local arm of the National Coalition for Police Accountability. March 3 becomes National Day of Protest.

August 1992

Park activist Rosebud Denova is killed by UC Berkeley Police; Copwatch questions police reports that the shooting was in self defense and demands further investigation.

Fall 1992

"Copwatch for Credit" becomes available though UC Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Department.

November 1992

Jerrold Hall, 19, is fatally shot in the back of the head by a BART police officer. Copwatch spearheads demonstrations and speaks out at investigative hearings, in the courtroom, to the media and in the streets, demanding the officer be tried for murder.

March 1993

Berkeley Police Department adds pepper spray to chemical arsenal; Police Review Commission approves. Copwatch protests.

April 1993

Copwatch assists in Streetwatch in San Francisco, the first of dozens of organizations nationwide modeled after copwatch.

Spring 1993

Copwatch Report questions pepper spray's use on peaceful protestors in campus demonstrations and exposes "Community Oriented Policing (COP)" as a public relations scam that fails to confront the real roots of crime.

Summer 1994

Copwatch Report exposes secret meetings held by Berkeley's City Council that led to the approval of anti-homeless legislation. Copwatch's Campaign to Defy Unjust Laws begins, encouraging people to challenge laws against loitering, panhandling, washing windows in a parking lot, etc.

July 1994

Copwatch helps lead signature-gathering effort that suspends enforcement of Berkeley's new anti-loitering ordinance. Council is forced to place new law on November ballot for city-wide vote. Copwatch aggressively campaigns against laws, but Measure O is passed with the help of $24,000 in funds donated by property management companies and local businesses. Copwatch joins in lawsuit opposing measure and helps to document cases where people were wrongfully harassed.

November 1994

Copwatch investigation discovers that Oakland resident Doze Thomas died in police custody after being pepper sprayed.

August 1995

Berkeley Police begin another "sweep" of Telegraph Avenue; 23 arrests are recorded on first day. Copwatch gets runaround at BPD when attempting to get police records on a sweep-related arrest.

September 1995

A disabled man, Carl Gregsby, is brutalized by Berkeley Police officers. Copwatch demands justice and helps to fundraiser for Gregsby's legal defense. Two years later, the City of Berkeley settles the suit for $33,000.

December 1995

Copwatch's campaign to ban use of pepper spray officially begins.

May 1996

Copwatch campaign prompts Berkeley City Council to hold public hearing on pepper spray.

Fall 1996

Copwatch files complaint with Berkeley Police Commission over restrictions on the release of police reports, arguing department is violating federal Freedom of Information Act.

October 1996

Copwatch helps organize a rally for the first National Day of Protest against Police Brutality in San Francisco. Other events held in cities including Los Angelos, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia. In the years to follow, October 22 becomes a powerful national coalition for organizing as well as an annual event.

November 1996

UC students protest passing of Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action measure. Campus police brutally break up demonstration. Copwatch helps publicize abuse.

February 11, 1997

Berkeley City Council awards $75,000 to Otis Stillwell and members of her family who were abused and pepper sprayed repeatedly by a Berkeley police officer. A city-sponsored task force votes 5-2 in favor of discontinuing police use of pepper spray, but ban is never approved by City Council.

April 1997

UC Police again brutalize peaceful anti-209 protestors. Copwatch assists student groups in documenting abuse and organizes Police Review Commission hearing on the UC Berkeley campus to make public accusations against UC Police.

January 1998

Copwatch joins Police Watch and other police accountability groups to campaign for justice in the killing of Mark Garcia, who died after being beaten and pepper sprayed by San Francisco police officers.

June 1998

Berkeley Police begin Operation Avewatch, and $80,000 paramilitary exercise against homeless people and youth that frequent Telegraph Avenue. Copwatch organizes concerned citizens to protest at a meeting of the Police Review Commission. Commissioners organize a public hearing to get more testimony and call on the City Council to put a moratorium on the discriminatory program.

September 1998

Copwatch conducts workshops at "Critical Resistance" conference, organized by Critical Resistance and other human rights groups working to stop oppression and working for radical change of the criminal justice system.

February 1999

Copwatch teams up with Boalt law students to create Community Advocates for Police Review (CARP), to provide much needed advocacy to people filing complaints with Berkeley Review Commission.

September 1999

Copwatch weekly class series is launched, giving UC students credit for learning about the struggle for police accountability. Class is free and also open to the public.

Spring 2000

Six African Americans in three separate incidents in the same neighborhood of South Berkeley are brutalized and arrested by Berkeley police officers. Copwatch searches for witnesses, investigates their complaints, organizes community support meetings, and attends their court dates. Copwatch draws media attention to the pattern of racial profiling.

July 2000

Copwatch organizes a protest at the dedication of the newly-constructed Berkeley jail, drawing attention to the questionable back-room financing of the jail.

August 2000

Copwatch presents workshops to Amnesty International in Denver, CO, leading to the creation of Denver Copwatch.

Summer 2001

Copwatch works with other activists to successfully pressure Berkeley City Council to make enforcement of PC 647(j), a CA state law that makes sleeping in public a crime, the lowest enforcement priority of the Berkeley Police Department.

October 11, 2001

Copwatch responds to the attacks of September 11 with a forum at UC Berkeley that examined the government's new laws that threaten our civil liberties, and produced a special edition Copwatch Report on the aftermath of 9/11.

Fall 2001

After receiving numerous complaints from South Berkeley about police misconduct, Copwatch begins outreach campaign to the neighborhood, collecting complaints, and informing people of their rights.

February 2002

Copwatch has forum on police crackdown of peaceful demonstrators and the importance of civil disobedience with Julia Butterfly Hill and other forest defenders.

Summer 2002

Copwatch Berkeley assists in Cincinnati activists in the creation of a new Copwatch chapter in the wake of the April 7 riots.

Winter 2003

Copwatch helps assist in legal trainings and distribution of Know Your Rights information to deal with the upcoming protests against the attacks on Iraq.

July 2003

Berkeley resident Glennel Givens is shot dead by Oakland Police and Berkeley Police officers. Copwatch begins investigation and pressures Police Review Commission to examine evidence and to conduct a truly independent investigation.

July 26, 2003

Berkeley Copwatch member Jacob Crawford is arrested and charged with felony obstruction for videotaping Cincinnati Police almost running over children while crashing Cincinnati Copwatch's first annual block party. Police tapes as well as videos taken by Copwatchers would help in Crawford's defense; he was found not guilty of the charges.

December 2003

"These Streets Are Watching" training video by Copwatch is released and distributed.

July 2006

Berkeley Copwatch members go on a Copwatch Mini-Tour of Southern California, visiting Modesto, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.

July 2007


February 16, 2008

Berkeley resident Anita Gay is shot and killed by BPD officers in response to domestic disturbance call. Copwatch assists family in demanding and independent investigation by the Police Review Commission. Justice for Anita! Justice for All! is formed by family, neighbors, and members of Copwatch, Critical Resistance and ANSWER Coalition.


In response to the killing of Oakland resident Oscar Grant, Berkeley Copwatch works with others to create Oakland Copwatch, and patrols of Oakland streets continue for five months. During that time, we attended many protests, but more importantly, we patrolled Oakland streets and planted the seeds of Copwatching in some folks' minds.


Protestors march after the verdict for Johannes Mehserle was announced. Mehserle was a BART cop who shot Oscar Grant when he was face down on the ground. 152 people were corralled and arrested in East Oakland including several Berkeley Copwatchers.

Berkeley Copwatch files Amicus Brief in the case of Simon Glik vs. Boston Police in the First Circuit Court of Appeals to support the right of individuals to Copwatch. Court later affirms the right to document police activity as crucial to the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Second International Copwatch Conference takes place in Winnipeg, Canada. Groups from across US and Canada attend. Copwatch presents report: "The Criminalization of Copwatch."

October 2011

Protesters at Occupy Oakland are arrested. Copwatch documents police misconduct throughout Occupy protests in Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley.

December 2011

Copwatch sponsors forum on "Silencing the Witnesses: Government Attacks on the Right to Watch Police."



Copwatch sponsors community forums on How to Conduct People's Investigations, and on The Federalization of Oakland Police.

In response to Public Records Act Request, Copwatch learns about police plans to acquire a armored personnel vehicle. A bit of publicity and lots of community outrage stopped BPD, Albany Police and UCPD from submitting a grant proposal for the tank-like vehicle.


Copwatch wins the "James Madison Freedom of Information Award" for its effective use of the Public Records Act to stop the armored personnel carrier.

February 2013

Kayla Moore, a transgender African American woman, died in her own home underneath a pile of aggressive police who had been called to help with a mental health emergency. There was no weapon involved. A lawsuit was filed. Copwatch sponsors several public protests to demand full disclosure of the reports and information related to the case.


October 2013


Copwatch releases its independent inquiry, "People's Investigation of the Death of Kayla Moore," a well-documented investigation, including findings and recommendations. Presents report to the Police Review Commission.


On the one year anniversary of the death of Kayla Moore and four months after its presentation to the council, Copwatch leads a protest to the Police Review Commission demanding justice.

Copwatch publishes it's "People's Investigation Guide" to help survivors, victims and families to conduct credible, community based investigations.

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