“Profiling the Police”: Using Eyewitness Video as Data About Police Abuse

We are extremely excited to announce the launch of our new project, “Profiling the Police” in collaboration with our partners at El Grito de Sunset Park.

WITNESS’ Media Lab and El Grito de Sunset Park studied over 300 videos from El Grito’s collection of eyewitness videos depicting police misconduct and abuse spanning a dozen years. Sunset Park is a largely Latinx and Asian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. Going beyond headline-grabbing instances of police violence, “Profiling the Police” aims to expose the day-to-day pressure, surveillance and harassment that residents in heavily-policed neighborhoods—most often people of color—like Sunset Park face on a regular basis.  

We set out to address specific challenges that El Grito faced in managing and making use of their collection of media. But we knew that these and other challenges are faced by many police accountability groups around the United States and the world. Additional problems we explored: supporting sustainable, community-led archives and preservation of police abuse accounts;  working towards metadata standards that would make it easier for video collections to be compared datasets in advocacy and reporting.

Lastly, civil rights law in New York and other states make it extremely difficult to access police officer personnel records for reports of misconduct or disciplinary action. While the burden of exposing abuse should not disproportionally rest on communities directly affected by it, collections like those held by El Grito are an important part of bringing greater transparency around misconduct. 

“Profiling the Police” would not have been possible without the support of our advisors which include:

For more on the project, click here.

Help WITNESS create more human rights change

Join us by subscribing to our newsletter.