Groups plan to film police interactions

WASHINGTON — Civil rights groups are planning to train a legion of volunteers on how to record police encounters in minority neighborhoods in hopes that fear of being videoed will deter misconduct like illegal shootings of unarmed men and women.

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and other groups officially announced the Santana Initiative on Thursday, which will train citizens on their rights to record police interactions with the public.

The recording of the deaths of several black men at the hands of police, including Walter Scott, Philando Castile and Eric Garner, has made police relations with minority communities a national topic, said Kim Keenan, the MMTC president. Video becomes a tool to help prosecute wrongdoing, or even clear police officers when they are in the right, she said.

“So we have to have a way to record this, so the truth comes out,” Keenan said.

The program, which is being supported by groups like the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, U.S. Black Chambers of Commerce and the National Congress of Black Women, is named after Fieden Santana, who in 2015 recorded the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina.

Former police officer Michael Slager said he started shooting after Scott attempted to grab his Taser. But Santana’s video showed Slager shooting Scott after the black man started running away. Slager pleaded guilty in May to violating Scott’s civil rights, and is awaiting sentencing.

“We know we have to do a better job of documenting these types of crimes, and the best way to do that is to make sure people know what their rights are and are prepared with information,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.