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Kirkwood Neighbors' Organization Votes to Censure Copwatch Group

The community's neighborhood group says the police watchdog group is not objective in its stated mission.

This still from the accompanying YouTube video is of an alleged police brutality incident that occurred April 8, 2013 at the Edgewood Courts Apartments.
This still from the accompanying YouTube video is of an alleged police brutality incident that occurred April 8, 2013 at the Edgewood Courts Apartments.
Patch Voices

Editor's note:
Copwatch of East Atlanta is part of a national network of citizens groups that records alleged incidents of police brutality and highlights individuals' Constitutional rights with respect to detentions, and or arrest. Its methods have come under fire, however, and this Op-Ed explains a recent decision by the Kirkwood Neighbors' Organization.

by Earl Williamson

The Kirkwood Neighbors Organization approved a motion for censure of Copwatch by a vote of 63 for, 1 against and 6 abstentions. This was based on the Atlanta Police Department's evening shift supervisor's description of issues they had been experiencing with Copwatch and the following episodes:
  • Following a reported APD officer beating of a suspect in the Edgewood Courts, the Copwatch kids armed the Edgewood courts kids with bricks and rocks and then Copwatch called the police. This was reported by an Edgewood community leader.
  • Following the armed robbery and shooting of a Kirkwood resident in Gilliam Park last week a rapid APD response included tracking dogs that followed suspect scent directly towards Edgewood Courts. During tracking, Copwatch individuals walked back and forth in the path of the tracking dogs in a suspected effort to obscure suspect scent. Reported by APD command.
  • Of 25 descriptions of APD officer behavior on Copwatch's website, 12 are in or immediately adjacent to Edgewood Courts. That means 48 percent of Copwatch activity relative to APD, centers on Edgewood Courts and strongly suggests a loss of objectivity as well as a seeming favoritism to criminal elements operating there. This is based on data from the Copwatch website.
Please note that this is not a censure of Edgewood Courts Apartments and especially not a censure of the majority of residents there who are law-abiding residents and members of the community.

— Mr.Williamson, a resident of Kirkwood, is chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit-O, which advocates for the interests of the Kirkwood, East Lake, the Villages of East Lake and Edgewood communities.
Jeremy K Galloway July 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Not surprising. Most "neighborhood" groups in Atlanta are little more than support groups for local cops or wannabe cops themselves. Talk about lacking objectivity -- excusing any action by cops who repeatedly harass and abuse Atlanta residents is the epitome of lacking objectivity. Also, the group's claim that "48 percent of Copwatch activity relative to APD, centers on Edgewood Courts and strongly suggests a loss of objectivity as well as a seeming favoritism to criminal elements operating there," is ridiculous. The East Atlanta Copwatch group is based in the Edgewood/Kirkwood area and, considering the high concentration of police activity in and around Edgewood courts, it's pretty obvious that most of the Copwatch activity would be where the cops are active. Given the horrendous track record of human and civil rights violations by the Atlanta Police Department, and the dramatic increase in reports of police brutality and abuse across the country, East Atlanta Copwatch deserves to be commended for the work they're doing. Shame on the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization for wasting neighborhood meeting time like this and for shamelessly supporting a police department known around the country for abusing our friends and neighbors.
Earl Williamson, RN July 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM
Mr Galloway - The Kirkwood Neighbors Organization (KNO) focuses on more that just Public Safety, including effective support of local public education, public parks and greenspaces, and the quality of life of Kirkwood residents. That's quite a bit broader than "support groups for local cops". Nor has KNO ever supported "wannabe cops" or anything beyond law enforcement by sworn officers augmented by effective neighborhood watches. Nor has KNO ever supported the harassment and abuse of ANY Atlanta residents, including those residents of Edgewood Courts terrorized by the minority of armed thugs among them actively recruiting and teaching juveniles criminal behavior. The latter appears to have been missed by Copwatch observers, whose vision appears increasingly narrow in it's loss of objectivity. To the point that Copwatch members arm children with projectiles in confrontations with police. Excuse me? The 48% of Copwatch activity statement is based wholly on Copwatch data on their website. Odd, don't you think, that in a city this size Copwatch has been unable to find more observational activities than those in essentially one location? You're trying to tell us that there aren't other sites of "high concentration of police activity" in East Atlanta? And at the same time implying there isn't a need for such given the killings and shootings, armed robberies, insane amount of gunfire, and fear (of criminal thugs) in and around Edgewood Courts? Where is Copwatch's concern for the majority of Edgewood Courts residents not committing crime and the many at risk children there as well as support for their safety? No commendation due there, sorry. No one denies issues related to the behavior and performance of individual APD officers and a recognition that more work and training is needed to recover from the low of the Johnson killing. However, those issues and questions DO NOT justify Copwatch support for armed criminals, period.
Georgia Slim July 12, 2013 at 12:51 PM
First, this article is filled with false information and LIBEL. It has been irresponsibly researched and quite frankly should be removed and edited to reflect true events or show supporting evidence of these dangerous claims. Second, Copwatch DOES NOT, now have they EVER endorsed violent behavior nor do they arm ANYONE for ANYTHING. I have attended several trainings conducted by copwatch and they stress avoiding escelation with the police and only to assert your rights when confronted by the police. I cannot believe I have to even explain this... Jeremy is absolutely right about the monitoring of police activity in Edgewood Courts. The group is loacted in Edgewood, and focus on neighborhood police issues, so naturally most of their activity will be loacted in the area. More truth of the matter is that police will arbitrarily detain children in the neighborhood on suspect of criminal activity or ties to criminal activity, and then throw a hissy fit when these kids assert their rights. This is why in recent months, along with higher crime rates, police activity has been increased in Edgewood courts, and thus Copwatch activity has been increased in Edgewood Courts. It doesn't take a PHD to see this, but it does take a SUBJECTIVE stance to omit this information. Which brings me to my next point: I'd like to bring to question the objectivity of this article. Seeing that important pieces of information in the article are clearly fabricated and substancial facts about economic, social, criminal, and police activity has been completely ommitted from the article, it is hardly and objective piece itself. SO basically, at BEST, this is the pot calling the kettle black. At WORST, it is a shabby attempt at neighborhoodpropoganda to support more police, harsher police tactics, and an excuse for 24/7 surveilence of our homes and our neighborhood, which I know for a fact that the police and some of the wealthier white residents are already partnering up on and the minutes of NPU-O meetings SHOULD reflect this (That is if the minutes are being recorded properly... ahem) And some questions on the objectivity of KNO itself: What has KNO or ONE done to support the victims of police harrasment and brutality? What has KNO or ONE done to educate residents about their rights with police or with neglegent/predatorial landlords/banks? As far as I can tell, nothing. Another point I'd like to bring up is the fact that a Kirkwood Neighborhood Organization is censuring a group located in a DIFFERNT neighborhood. Mind your own damn business. One more thing, how long has KNO and ONE been around? and how does that relate to the influx of wealthier whiter residents? Do KNO and ONE ever talk about the part that race and class play in the rise of crime? Are these mostly white organizations calling for a higher concentration of police? How do we know? Questions aside, in summary, this article is riddled with false accusations and libel, and only supports the fallacy that crime consists of isolated incedents with no regard to the changing economic and social conditions in the area that may lead to higher crime rates, nor does it address how to deal with these problems. This rag should be REMOVED from Patch as a libel, irrelevant, and character assasination piece.
Martin K July 12, 2013 at 01:36 PM
As a former resident of Hardee Street (I moved out a year ago when the neighborhood went downhill, leaving our house with bullet holes. Like Baghdad-style bullet holes, in America.) I support both sides. The police need to be deeply involved in that area, specifically to arrest and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those people who make the neighborhood unsafe for everyone. I think most police will back me on this; it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, white or black or green, if you break the law, you're going to jail. After a fair trial by your peers, of course. I think every community member who has been arrested, or has a loved one who has been arrested, knows the fear and panic that happens in those moments. There are a few things to consider though, especially when asserting your rights: 1) The police will (and should) arrest anyone involved in impeding an arrest or investigation. 2) Know your rights. Shouting "Free speech" at an officer does nothing productive. And in fact, according to your Miranda Rights, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. 3) These cops are at work. Dangerous work. How many of you worry about getting shot or killed at work every single day. No wonder they are on edge. Remember that when harassing them. 4) There are bad cops, just like there are bad teachers, bad McDonalds workers, and bad bankers. These groups make up a very small portion of the population. These bad people (those who act immorally or illegally) should be brought to the same justice as those they intend to arrest. With all that has been happening on this side of town lately, I totally support an increased police presence. If you don't like police keeping the rule of law enforced, I would suggest Mogadishu, or maybe the slums of Rio. Oh, one more note: if you don't want to get arrested, don't break the law.
Stefan Persson July 12, 2013 at 02:07 PM
The groups' name is "Cop Watch of East Atlanta". If you don't want KNO up in 'your' business, then may I suggest you rename the group to more correctly reflect your area of concern. Kirkwood is in east Atlanta too you know, not to mention the folks in the actual East Atlanta Village might take issue with your implied ties to their neighborhood. If you want to know whether those organizations are in fact calling for more police, then may I suggest you attend some of their meetings? That should also answer your concern about whether meeting minutes are being recorded correctly. Also, why does it matter how long KNO or ONE has been around; how do you know that those organizations are mostly white, and why does that matter to you?
Georgia Slim July 12, 2013 at 06:23 PM
They are in fact calling for more police. I go to NPU meetings, I have been to neighborhood organization meetings before. And I'll tell you WHY it matters how long these organizations have been around. Because it seems to me, and I am not alone, that these organizations, intentions aside, have been supporting the city's continuing effort to "revitalize" and "redevelop" the inner city, my home and place of birth mind you. What this has been doing is slowly and sometimes violently pushing the poorer populations, who are also mostly black communites, out of the city, out of our homes, and displacing poor communities. I was at AHA meetings when the Board basically shut the door on any residents who raised legitimate concerns of relocation efforts. While the intentions of these organizations may be good hearted, the realistic implications of "redeveloping" entire neighborhoods needs to be considered by carefully examining race, class, and the economic consequences rising property values can have on the poor communities that have been living in these neighborhoods for generations. The NPU meetings do not have these sort of considerations, nor do they do much for "neighborhood planning" anyway, and judging by their email lists, I highly doubt KNO or ONE do either. That's why. Oh, and haha... I never said the organizations are mostly white. I was asking "are they"? God almighty.
Georgia Slim July 12, 2013 at 06:23 PM
and i am not in the group so you're telling the wrong person to rename the group...
Earl Williamson, RN July 13, 2013 at 09:24 AM
Mr Slim - Rather than a rambling diatribe unrelated to the topic, why not respond to the major incident involving Copwatch that fueled much of the 63 For-1 Abstain-6 Against vote supporting censure of that group? Exactly why was Copwatch making efforts to interfere with an active law enforcement search minutes after a resident of the community was shot during an armed robbery? BTW, the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization (KNO) has been active about twenty years. NPU-O has been active in it's member communities going on forty years, since the founding of the Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) in 1974 by the late Maynard Jackson.
Kirkwood Resident July 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM
I watched the entire video. Where exactly did they beat, mace, spray bystanders? What point in the video? I see one guy with dreads resisting arrest and fighting back with police who is hit multiple times. I also see a crowd of yelling, angry people which if I was an officer would put me on edge as well. Patch, did you review the video first before posting?
Kirkwood Resident July 13, 2013 at 12:47 PM
And also, why would the citizens of Kirkwood not want more police presence after the uptick in crime lately in and around the area? Decatur and east atlanta have asked for the same thing. Edgewood court apts has been a haven for criminal activity and that has spilled into all of the surrounding areas. It would make sense that police focus on it. I live nearby and frequently hear gunn shots comings from the courts. Check request for police records in that section if you want more facts.
Copwatch East Atlanta July 13, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Copwatch was surprised to read in East Atlanta Patch that the Kirkwood Neighborhood Association had censured our organization, and we were shocked to see the reasons they cited. All three of the accusations against Copwatch are false, and it's troubling that they got this far before we were given a chance to address them. Hopefully we can dispel them now: - Copwatch did not "arm" anyone with anything during the April 9th march against police brutality. We film the police, and we educate people about their legal rights. That's all we ever do, and that's all we were doing on April 9th. Some protesters did throw rocks, but Copwatch did not encourage that and certainly did not "arm" them. If anyone has objections about the riot, they should be addressed to the participants, not us. We also did not call the police, nor would we ever call police to any scene in order to cause a confrontation. Our organization exists specifically to prevent police violence; it's bizarre to imagine that we would try to provoke it. - Copwatch did not attempt to obscure the scent of tracking dogs, nor has it ever even occurred to us to do such a thing. This accusation is so strange it's almost laughable. We strictly avoid interference with police investigations, all we do is film them. When the police give us lawful orders we always comply. If a Copwatch activist had ever interfered with an investigation, the police would not hesitate to arrest the offender for obstruction. That has never happened. - There are two reasons that many of our reports are related to Edgewood Courts. One is simply that many of our activists live two blocks from the apartment complex, so we can more readily patrol that area. The other is obvious to anyone who lives in or near the apartments: police activity is disproportionately high there, including harassment and misconduct. The many documented cases of misconduct in one apartment complex is not evidence of "favoritism to criminal elements", it is evidence that something is seriously wrong with policing in that complex. It should indeed be cause for alarm, but blaming Copwatch is shooting the messenger. If these accusations were not deliberate lies, any misconceptions could have been easily cleared up by simply contacting Copwatch and asking. Yet nobody connected to the Kirkwood Neighborhood Association ever contacted us to ask us about any of these issues. Instead, they went so far as to hold a formal vote condemning our entire organization before extending us even a basic opportunity to address these rumors. This lack of good faith is disheartening, and not what we expect from a democratic neighborhood association. Copwatch works for transparency and accountability. While we welcome criticism and feedback from the communities we're part of, we condemn the use of misrepresentations by APD officials to attempt to discredit our work. We hope that this incident encourages people to be skeptical the next time police officials make unsupported accusations against anyone. The public has a responsibility to demand better.
Edgewood Resident July 13, 2013 at 02:12 PM
I'm not understanding why there is such an issue with inner city Atlanta being redeveloped and revitilzed? Why would you want run down abandoned neighborhoods to continue to exist where you live? Why would you want to live in a place where it seems unsafe for your children and family to walk down the street, even in the day? Who wants to hear gunshots on regular basis. I truly appreciate CopWatch's effort to empower East Atlanta residents about their legal rights, but that only addresses part of the issue. Residents must take pride in where they live. They have to not only show intolerance for police brutality, but also intolerance of those bringing drugs, stolen cars, guns, and other forms of crime into the neighborhood. I'd like Cop Watch to be an even stronger advocate, leader, and active participant in neighborhood watch, as crime is a very large problem that is effecting the whole neighborhood. As a resident of Edgewood, its hard to focus on helping to deter police brutatlity, when I'm to busy figuring out how to keep my windows from being broken, my car been damaged from attempted theft, and my doors being kicked in. My primary concern is reducing this crime and fear for me, my family and my neighbors.
Stefan Persson July 13, 2013 at 02:36 PM
ER, you're concerned about crime, and you want an anti-police group to take leadership in reducing it? Yeah ok. Good luck with that. And Copwatch: So you.. I mean "they" bought a house two blocks from Edgewood courts just so that you, I mean "they" could "patrol" it? And are you seriously suggesting that APD just made up the whole thing about some tur.. I mean Copwatch running all over the crime scene at Gilliam Park? And where is your concern for the woman your friends at EC shot?
Earl Williamson, RN July 13, 2013 at 06:36 PM
And you are ? Transparency and accountability include sharing one's name, particularly when one is speaking on behalf of a group. And Copwatch? No leadership or board, no location, no mailing address, no organization, no accountability. A few points: - throwing rocks is not protesting, it is criminal behavior. Copwatch failure to speak out against this criminal behavior is pretty illustrative of their position on public safety. - Copwatch behavior during the confrontation with police was reported by members of the community. - enforcement efforts at and around Edgewood Courts are high because criminal activity in and adjacent to the complex is insanely high and criminals use the complex and it's largely law abiding residents as cover and a base of operations, as any resident of the area can confirm, Coan Park customers can confirm, and crime reports can confirm. Copwatch claims that "police activity is disproportionately high" at Edgewood Courts is laughable and ignores where much of Edgewood and Kirkwood crime is demonstrably originating from. - again, your failure to speak out and against criminal elements operating within a law abiding community (including their recruitment of juveniles) speaks volumes regarding Copwatch's position on public safety. You are clearly NOT interested in the safety of your neighbors in Edgewood and Kirkwood. - Copwatch displays an amazing lack of concern for the victims of crime in the area including the woman shot in Gilliam Park, disabled children and parents terrorized at Coan Recreation Center, field users robbed and shot at in Coan Park, and the multiple victims of armed robbery in the area. In almost all of these incidents perpetrators were witnessed escaping to Edgewood Courts ... where Copwatch claims to operate in and focus on. Yet you see nothing. Selective vision perhaps? - Reported on the same Patch page as your statement: Two more killings, a dead body, three armed robberies, and another non-fatal shooting. Your claim that APD is the problem pales in contrast.
Earl Williamson, RN July 13, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Rearding Copwatch presence during pursuit of the armed felon who shot a woman in Gilliam Park - What exactly was Copwatch doing in front of the active pursuit of an armed and dangerous felon? If not attempting to obscure scent and pursuit then what? How did Copwatch know about the pursuit, only minutes after the shooting that precipitated it? And in enough time to place themselves in front of the pursuit? If your only purpose in front of that pursuit was to film that investigation than why not share that video with us? Or would that video demonstrate Copwatch was doing more than simply observe, deliberate or not?
Tyler Mahoney July 13, 2013 at 09:17 PM
These are laughable accusations and all of them are completely unsourced. "Arming" people with rocks and then calling the police? I guess I could see someone doing one or the other, but both? Whose side exactly are copwatch accused of being on? Walking back and forth in the scent trail? How could they have been consciously walking through a trail that is invisible to the human eye? Can this claim even be sourced back to the police department? The last accusation is the most telling one, though. They associate the mere presence at Edgewood Courts with "favoritism to the criminal element operating there". Just another example of a racist neighborhood association's war on the poor. SMH.
Kirkwood Resident July 13, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Racist? What in the world are you talking about. Supporting the police is racist? Asking for their help with crime to increase patrols in our neighborhood? Kirkwood is a diverse neighborhood and the police are there for all of us. Watch your own cop watch video and see how many of the police officers were black. So even that logic does not work. Please stop bringing race into this. Public safety and crime are the issues.
TCCB July 19, 2013 at 01:53 AM
I am BLACK!!!!! Close Edgewood Courts Down!!!! Drugs,Gangs, carjackers ect..................
TCCB July 19, 2013 at 02:05 AM
Take them all to jail!!!!!

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