Is Copwatching A Right or A Deadly Distraction?

It’s more complicated than it seems.

By Luke QuintonMay 8, 2015 9:01 am

Tensions between police and citizens are high. That’s given rise to a new movement of so-called ‘copwatchers’ – ordinary people, with regular day jobs, who use their spare time to catch police actions on camera. Police often see them as a threat, but the copwatchers say they’re exercising basic rights.

Neena Satija has reported on copwatchers for the Texas Tribune and Reveal, the radio show from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

On the specifics of the interaction between Kory Watkins and the police:

“Kory Watkins is a very controversial, and maybe you could say unique activist here in Texas, in the sense that he combines cop watching with his activism on gun rights and his activism for open carry. He calls this “open carry copwatch”…other copwatchers that I spoke to don’t think it’s a great idea to carry guns into police situations while they’re cop watching.”

On the legality of cop watching:

“It’s legal to film the cops in most situations. And it’s legal to openly carry the weapons that he’s carrying. What’s interesting is: can that ever become illegal? Can you ever distract a police officer by walking up to them while carrying a gun?”

On what the police are saying:

“I think opinions vary widely on this. From a police officer’s point of view – and I heard this from pretty much every police officer I spoke to – being distracted can be deadly.”