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How Grantee WITNESS Builds Technological Capacity of Grassroots Groups to Increase Police Accountability

Since its founding in 1992, WITNESS has worked with more than 550 organizations to support activists, journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders in using video and technology to protect and defend human rights.

One of WITNESS’ key lines of work is equipping communities to use these digital tools more safely and effectively for meaningful change, as is the case with its ongoing partnership with Berkeley Copwatch, a grassroots all-volunteer organization dedicated to monitoring police actions and non-violently asserting its rights.

Informed by years of collaboration, Berkeley Copwatch and WITNESS recently updated the People’s Database for Community-based Police Accountability (“the People’s Database”). Other groups in California, Puerto Rico, and Chile have turned to the shared template for adaptation and guidance in shaping their own community databases.

The People’s Database allows volunteers within the Berkeley Copwatch network to search and enter data about police incidents, officers, types of force used, and links to multi-media documents and other information related to cases or people connected to an incident. It also serves as a tracking tool, allowing volunteers to track specific incidents or officer misconduct over time. By improving the way information is managed, advocates can more quickly and effectively conduct investigations, organize justice campaigns, and challenge unjust laws, policies, and police practices.

The Heising-Simons Foundation supports the work of WITNESS through the CEO Fund: Technology and Society line of work, which addresses the impact of technology on society to build a more just and inclusive society. Learn more about our grant to WITNESS here.

Learn more about the People’s Database and download free resources on WITNESS’ website.

CEO Fund: Technology and Society