Nevada Cop Block Founder: Police Prey On Poor People And Minorities

Interview with the founder and editor of the Nevada Cop Block Kelly W. Patterson.

Jul. 28,2016


Police brutality is being discussed nowadays all over the media and Internet. Politicians and celebrities make big pronouncement about the issue and all the major outlets cover the most notorious cases of police violence. Some of the organizations started talking about this problem before it became mainstream and made great contributions to the fight against blue violence. Cop Block is one and maybe even the main one of them. People who make it are always there and are always trying to make change. Kelly W. Patterson is a Las Vegas based homeless advocate, artist, freelance writer and photographer. He is the editor and main writer of Nevada Cop Block. We talked to Kelly to discuss the Cop Block project, his inspiration and his take on police brutality.
Hello, Kelly! What is the Cop Block to you? Is it a hobby or something more important?
Kelly W. Patterson
Well, I wouldn’t consider it a hobby. People are actually dying so it’s something more like us advocating for justice.
Can you tell me a bit more about how your work is organized? Who make up the Cop Block team? Do you have a specific number of police brutality cases that you have to report every week?
Kelly W. Patterson
There are probably about 10 people that are actively working on Cop Block onsite. They’re people that live all across the country so I don’t know everybody personally. People just write whatever they want to. It’s basically freelance so we don’t have a certain amount of posts that you have to do and there’s no salary. It’s based on whatever your post does in tend of views.
Can anyone send you a video if they find anything interesting?
Kelly W. Patterson
Yeah. There’s a submission tab on the page through which anyone can send in their videos. Also, if somebody writes regularly about police related issues, we could get them set up to be a regular contributor.
Have you had any personal encounters with the police that inspired you to do this work?
Kelly W. Patterson
I haven’t actually been assaulted by the police. I’ve been arrested for protesting once. We were protesting against the murders here in Las Vegas. A person I went to high school with was one of the people they murdered. That’s part of why I got involved with Cop Block. They arrested us for drawing with chalk, calling it graffiti. It was really just retaliation because they were trying to intimidate us into stopping.
How were you treated in jail?
Kelly W. Patterson
Well, inside the jail they keep the lights on all the time, the temperature is like 30 degrees and you’re crammed in a room that’s designed for 20 people but you have about 40 people in it. I wasn’t personally assaulted by the police. I was only there 4 days and I can say that it’s not really a good thing.
Your stories are more about the daily lives of cops and all their violations but you somehow manage to add some humor to all your descriptions. Do you naturally see the funny side of everything or is it just your style?
Kelly W. Patterson
It’s just my style. I think that doing things in an entertaining way makes it easier for people to follow along and they’re more likely to read it. I do see the humor of things. People are always saying that cops are heroes, and there are certainly bad apples but mostly good cops. However, when you read these stories, it’s always one cop doing something and another 12 cops watching him do it. And supposedly because they are not actually beating somebody that means they’re good cops. There are people who are like, “This cop pulled me over and he could have beat me to death but he didn’t, so that makes him a good cop”. The fact that somebody didn’t murder you when he could have, doesn’t make him a good person, especially when they’re harassing you for walking across the street. I think when you take these things and make sarcasm out of them, not only is it entertaining but it also hammers on that point.
Can you give me a few examples of some really violent police encounters that were so hard on you that you found it difficult to even describe?
Kelly W. Patterson
There was Kelly Thomas, who the cops basically harassed, then because he didn’t comply with what they wanted they beat him to death on film. One of the cops broke his taser from beating him with it. There’s the case of Stanley Gibson, someone I went to high school with, who was murdered by the police, so it makes it somewhat of a personal issue. He’s another person who they had no reason to be bothering in the first place. He was having a panic attack in his car and wasn’t a threat to anybody. First, they wanted to throw tear gas into his car to force him out. There was a cop who had said to his wife previously that he wanted to shoot somebody so he could get paid time off, and he ended up shooting him and making some racist remarks after that. It’s a really bad case here in Las Vegas.
How common is police brutality in Las Vegas?
Kelly W. Patterson
I think it was the number 3 city in the entire country 2 years ago for killings by police so it’s pretty common.
In your opinion, does police brutality have anything to do with race?
Kelly W. Patterson
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a racial factor in it. First of all, the police prey on poor people and minorities. Part of the reason is that in the past they could get away with it. Also, there was segregation so you knew if you went to the ghetto, the only people that would see you were other minorities. That has changed a little bit now, especially with cameras, which have become a little more widespread. Another thing is that when you are poor, you have a hard time fighting against it. When you get arrested, you can’t necessarily afford a lawyer so it’s harder for you to fight the system. They know that, so they take advantage of it. Also, there’s ingrained racism within the police. When people in general and especially police see minorities, they assume they’re poor, whether they are or not. That’s another thing that works against minorities.
Very often when these things happen, the cops get nothing but paid leave, which is sponsored by tax payers. On what scale do you think you’re changing the system with your activism?
Kelly W. Patterson
Well, I think when you look at when Cop Block first started in 2010, there wasn’t a lot of awareness of filming and so there wasn’t awareness on police brutality. I think Cop Block has raised people’s awareness of filming a lot. So now when you see an incident with the police, there are people who automatically just take out their phones and start recording. A lot of that is due to Cop Block. Also, I think even though the cops generally don’t get punished in the long run, we’ve reached a point where at least now they’re arresting some of them. They usually just whitewash it later at some point but at least now they’re pretending like they’re going to do something. One of the things I try to create awareness of with what I write is this: because I follow the story from the time the incident happens to when they either arrest or don’t arrest the cops, to when they get him to court and they get him some really easy plea bargain or the prosecutor  does a half ass job and makes sure that the cop gets acquitted, you see the whole thing play out.
What do you think of bodycam footages? Sometimes, not all police departments are willing to reveal the videos. What do you do in such cases?
Kelly W. Patterson
That’s one of the problems with people who think that bodycams are the solution to everything because the cops still have control over that. So we still need to record ourselves. But you have to wait for them to release the videos, and they can make a lot of excuses about it being evidence or they even sometimes say the videos are going to cause problems, which tells you indirectly that there’s something wrong with what the cop did. However, all surveillance camera, dashcam and bodycam videos are public records so you can file a Freedom of Information Act request with the police and actually get a copy of any video that they make.
What plans do you have going forward in terms of your activism?
Kelly W. Patterson
We’ve actually talked about having a sort of Cop Block summit. We have plans for a meetup so we can meet some of the people who write on Cop Block. Like I said, I’ve never met some of our writers in person, so that would be a really good thing to do.
Do you collaborate with any organizations or activist groups?
Kelly W. Patterson
I’ve personally worked with different groups here in Las Vegas, people involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. We work with Food Not Bombs that mostly deals with poverty and homelessness, and immigration groups. I work pretty much with anybody in Vegas doing anything in relation to social issues or policing issues.
We all got used to phrases like “I was scared for my life” coming from cops. Do you think police deliberately lie and find false excuses to justify their actions?
Kelly W. Patterson
Well, in most videos you can see that even when somebody is lying on the ground and they are not resisting, police always yell “stop resisting!” So sometimes this stuff is just made up. What they do with homeless people is that they stop them for jaywalking in a residential neighborhood because they want an excuse to check them and basically harass them. They stop people in cars and claim that they didn’t use their turn signal, and it’s basically their word against yours so there are a lot of different ways police can find to harass people and then asset them. Obstruction is one, disturbing the peace is another where it’s really subjective and if the cops want to arrest you they can find an excuse. They profile people, so when they find somebody they want to mess with, they find an appropriate reason to do that.
What in your opinion is the most effective way to fight police brutality?
Kelly W. Patterson
I still think filming is important because then you have an actual record of what happened. It also acts as a form of deterrent because they know they’re being filmed. Most of them – not all of them because some don’t really care – are not going to do anything that they know is going to get them into trouble. I think that we should build connections within our communities and get together. The problem with police brutality is that most times it’s you against the entire city and government. So if you have people within your community that will support you, then you are way better off. It’s also harder for the police to victimize people if there are others who are willing to stand up for them.
Can you give our readers some tips for survival in an instance where they are attacked by cops?
Kelly W. Patterson
It’s usually a bad decision to try to fight the cops because first of all they’re better armed and there are more of them. But if the cops are trying to kill you, you have the right to self-defense, so you have to make that decision whether or not you want to try to defend yourself. I’ve never been in that situation, but I think your best bet is to have people with you that support you. Like we did during the May Day Parade earlier this year, we had a girl that was being arrested for riding her bike on the street. About 200 people that were in the march surrounded the cops and chanted and demanded that they release her until they ended up releasing her. Having support is key. When I got arrested, there was a really big backlash within the community and they got a lot of bad PR for that. The reason for that was because a lot of people know me as a non-violent person and not as a criminal. I had a lot of support so they dropped the charges quite quickly – in about a month.

Nevada Cop Block Founder: Police Prey On Poor People And Minorities

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