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Ferguson residents turn to video to document police stops




Protestors demonstrate outside the Ferguson Police Department on March11, 2015 in Ferguson, MO. Protests erupted after the announcement of  the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson earlier in the day.
Protestors demonstrate outside the Ferguson Police Department on March11, 2015 in Ferguson, MO. Protests erupted after the announcement of the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson earlier in the day.
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

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Over the past year residents in Ferguson, Missouri have started using small video cameras to film police in the neighborhood.

The efforts began after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, near Canfield Green Apartments last August.

"It's about establishing a network in order to combat this," said resident David Whitt, who helped train others on how to use the cameras. He's the founder of a group called Canfield Watchmen. "We have to do this as a group and not as an individual."

Whitt says the program gave out about 200 cameras to residents following Brown's shooting and conducted workshops to teach people how to record police interactions without interfering.

It's also supported by a California-based group called WeCopwatch, which has worked with people in other cities, including Detroit, Baltimore and Charleston.

Jacob Crawford, one of the co-founders of WeCopwatch, said the use of cameras by residents in Ferguson has had an impact throughout the area.
 
"These neighborhoods are compact around here, so when you train 50 or 100 people in another neighobrhood or the next neighborhood over, that consciousness carries over," said Crawford. "A lot of that stuff that happens in Canfield, takes place in other neighborhoods as well."

Former Police Chief Tom Jackson expressed support for the program last year.

In March, the Justice Department released a report which said that African Americans made up a disproportionate share of arrests in Ferguson and that police were motivated by "unlawful bias."

Both Crawford and Whitt say police relations are still tense in the area, but now residents have a tool they feel can bring some light to their communities.