To kick off their Copwatch program, Associated Students members set up a table on Del Playa Drive on Friday night to pass out complaint forms and informational fliers to Isla Vista residents.
A.S. Student Lobby tabled on the 6600 block of DP from 10:45 p.m. to about 1:45 a.m. Over the three-hour period, 10 complaints were filed and over two dozen forms were given to people to fill out at home, said Lance Tackett, A.S. Student Lobby chair. He said that, in the future, crews of students will accompany patrolling IVFP officers with videocameras to record any possible instances of misconduct by law enforcement.
Kelly Burns, the vice chair of A.S. Student Lobby, said the organization decided to start the Copwatch program at UCSB in response to what she said were frequent student complaints alleging police misconduct toward students during weekends in I.V. After Halloween weekend, Burns said, many students felt they were being unfairly ticketed by the IVFP.
“We want to give students a chance to be able to place complaints against IVFP without having to deal with IFVP,” Burns said.
Jessica Hitt, a member of Copwatch, said A.S. wants to oversee the actions of the police and to hold them accountable for any misconduct.
“We want to make sure that no laws are stepped on,” Hitt said.
According to the Copwatch Web site, UC Berkeley students created the program in March 1990 in response to growing misconduct within the Berkeley police department, including alleged harassment of local homeless people and an incident in which officers seized and “brutalized” the residents of the Barrington co-op. Program participants follow officers on duty with a camera or camcorder to document evidence of police misconduct. Such action, the Web site states, makes the police accountable for their actions and discourages future misconduct.
Burns said UCSB’s Copwatch program is driven by the same ideas as the Berkeley program, but A.S. intends to implement the program differently. In addition to the videotaping, Burns said students will fill out complaint forms regarding the IVFP and turn them in at designated drop boxes, which can be found in front of the A.S. office on campus and in front of Sam’s To Go in I.V. The complaint forms will help A.S. document any alleged abuse, she said.
“We don’t want to make any accusations without proof,” Burns said. “The complaint forms will help us do that.”
Students can also pick up the complaint forms where A.S. will be tabling along DP on Friday and Saturday nights, Tackett said. He said he expects many students will file complaints regarding incidents that have occurred in the past.
Tackett said he hopes the program will help improve student relations with the IVFP officers.
“The goal for us is to work with IVFP to bridge the gap,” Tackett said. “We don’t want to work against them. We want to work with them.”