Smartphones have turned virtually everyone into a filmmaker. This has meant that many people’s reaction to an event large or small is to whip out their phone and start recording. So what separates these everyday citizens from people who consider themselves “cop watchers”?

Cop watchers are a loose band of activists who consider it their job to police the police. They’ll show up at traffic stops or hang out in areas with a large police presence so they can document the activities of police.

You now can find cop-watching groups in dozens of cities across the country. But some officers are starting to push back, saying these groups interfere with their jobs and endanger the public.

Neena Satija, who works for Reveal and The Texas Tribune, takes us to places where tensions between cops and cop watchers have started to flare up. In Texas cities such as Austin and Dallas, activists are being arrested and police departments are asking state lawmakers to step in.

DIG DEEPER 

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.