A new documentary by Camilla Hall seeks to cast a light on those brave enough to film police brutality and the harsh consequences that await them. The documentary, entitled Copwatch, follows the lives of three men who recorded various acts of violence committed by police and are put into the spotlight.
Copwatch stems from the the site WeCopwatch created by Jacob Crawford and David Whitt, two men galvanized to action in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting by BART Police and the death of Michael Brown. Their site seeks to educate people on how to safely document police brutality.
New York resident Ramsey Orta is one of the trio featured. He’s best known for holding the cell phone that recorded the 2014 death of his friend Eric Garner, an African-American man approached by cops for selling loose cigarettes and whose strangled cries of “I can’t breathe” have become a rallying call for protesters. Unfortunately, as shown in Copwatch, the act of recording a crime can often blowback on those doing the capturing.
Orta has discussed at length about alleged retaliation he’s experienced from the NYPD, from general harassment and intimidation to filing charges that saw him spending four years in jail. In an article for Time, Orta claims the harassment has intensified to the point he’s moved from his home into a location he refuses to disclose. Regardless, Orta has said he doesn’t regret recording Garner’s attack and final moments.
With little to no justice happening for victims of crimes by the police, a documentary like Copwatch couldn’t be timelier with its demands for more accountability and compelling people to remain vigilant and aware of what’s going on around them.
Copwatch premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and will be available via video-on-demand on September 29 after a theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Ohio.