Berkeley Copwatch, an activist group dedicated to monitoring police and protecting citizens, hosted a “Know Your Rights” training event Tuesday night.
Led by longtime Copwatch member Andrea Prichett and UC Berkeley fifth-year senior Marcel Jones, the training addressed appropriate police-filming tactics and the rights of citizens when confronted by a police officer.
Copwatch members “want to document what’s happening, we want to document the truth, and we want to directly monitor the police in a nonviolent way,” Prichett said at the event.
Prichett and Jones specifically discussed how to approach an event such as the December Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley, during and after which many Berkeley police were criticized for their handling of the demonstrations, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
“Community members have the right to watch or film police officers at the scene of an arrest or other inquiry being conducted,” said Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats in an email. “We … ask that they do so from a safe distance and that their actions do not jeopardize the safety of the person being contacted or the officer.”
UCPD spokesperson Lt. Marc DeCoulode agreed, emphasizing the importance of listening to officers’ commands — such as stepping back — in order to avoid escalating any altercations.