A Brief History Of Copwatch

In 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. The Black Panther Party was the first group to practice Copwatch in an organized manner. At that time in California, it was legal to carry guns in plain view. The Black Panthers used this to their advantage – holding guns alongside their law books while they observed police interactions with community members.

In March of 1990, the community in Berkeley decided to take action by beginning street patrols to document police harassment of homeless people on Telegraph Avenue. Later that year in May, Copwatch’s Newsletter, the “Copwatch Report” debuts, highlighting patterns of intimidation, selective enforcement, misinformation and excessive oversight by police against Southside’s population. In July, 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).