Members of the Citizen Awareness Coalition of Asheville, a group formed over the past few weeks in response to controversial cases involving law enforcement and activists, is considering cop-watch programs and a complaint hotline as possible efforts aimed at curbing what they see as excesses by law enforcement.
The group is already pushing for a Citizen’s Police Review Board to investigate complaints and issue public findings. The additional suggestions came at an Aug. 29 meeting.
Cop-watch programs, which already exist in larger cities such as Austin, Berkeley Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix (logo at right) and Portland, among others, involve giving volunteers technical and legal training. They then document and witness police activity.
Berkeley’s program, founded in 1990, is the original and has served as a model for many of the others that followed.
“This has been done in other cities — people take it upon themselves to keep an eye on officers that there’s been problems with,” Leslie Armstrong, a group member and co-owner of Rosebud Video, who took notes for the meeting, said. “Right now it’s just an idea that’s been suggested, but there is a model for this.”
Armstrong emphasized that she was not an official spokesperson for the group, which is based on consensus and has no formal officials.
Another idea suggested by group members was a community hotline for “getting in touch quickly with resources — it also might make it easier to educate the public about their rights,” Armstrong noted.
The group meets again at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sep. 5, at Eatie’s Cereal Bar in downtown Asheville.
— David Forbes, staff writer