Smartphone video footage of police brutality being exercised against black Americans and other ethnic minorities living their lives within the nation's borders have become depressingly commonplace. While difficult to watch and, most likely for the videographer, difficult to stand by and film, such footage can be an important tool in bringing cops who abuse the power of their office to justice. The news, social media and water cooler talk here in North America often overflows with reports of abuses of power by law enforcement officials. It's easy to forget that the very same brand of injustice and violence are served up in other parts of the world – a lot.
According to The New York Times, in Australia, a country that's been marred by institutional racism since its inception, "…aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are incarcerated at 13 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. They make up 27 percent of Australia's prisoners, compared with 3 percent of the overall population." Given the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Australians in the clink, it's safe to say that there's some greasy shit going on Down Under, of a similar sort to the greasy shit we see going on up here in places like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.
To help Australia aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples to mitigate this prejudicial treatment at the hands of those meant to serve and protect them, human rights activists are teaching them how to respond to the threat of police violence and to record their interactions with law enforcement, just like we do up here:
From The New York Times:
The Copwatch workshops, activists said, are intended to teach people their legal rights and how to safely record interactions with police officers.
"Stand back, don't become part of it, de-escalate," said George Newhouse, a lawyer for the National Justice Project, relating some of the advice his colleagues offer. When recording video, he added, "make sure your footage is saved to the cloud. In some situations, police try to delete videos."
Participants were also instructed to disable the facial-recognition and thumbprint-scanning features used to unlock some smartphones because they can be used by the police to access a person's device against his or her will.
Copwatch has also developed an app that can be used to record and store interactions with the police, as well as to alert a user's contacts if that person is in a potentially dangerous situation and where.
Image via Kevin Walsh. (CC BY 2.0)