Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Phoenix pastor monitors police abuse of immigrants

First off, I know nothing about God's Army church or Pastor Richard Tamayo beyond what appears in an Arizona Republic article. But I have to respect anybody who responds to reports of abuse of immigrants -- particularly abuse committed by police -- by strapping on a gun and grabbing a video recorder.

Standing in the shade of a young paloverde tree, Pastor Richard Tamayo talks about Christianity with eight day laborers in the parking lot near a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Instead of a Bible, the former New York Police Department undercover officer has a gun in a holster and a mini Sony digital camcorder in his left hand.

Tamayo, of God's Army church in northeast Phoenix, is investigating allegations of abuse against undocumented immigrants in his congregation. These men in denim jeans and grass-stained shoes don't speak out for fear of being deported, he said.

"We're out here ministering, and they're speaking to people they feel comfortable with, the church," Tamayo said. "Contractors will hire them for two weeks then not pay them. We're looking into that. Police officers are abusing their authority, assaulting people. What these people need most is a voice. God's Army will be their voice."

Tamayo addressed a Phoenix City Council subcommittee Tuesday on behalf of his congregation, which spans 32nd Street to Cave Creek Road and Bell to Greenway roads.

At the meeting, Tamayo told the subcommittee that he will be gathering witnesses and investigating allegations against Valley police departments. Phoenix police representatives could not be reached for comment.

The phenomenon of video recording as a weapon for use against out-of-bounds officials is becoming increasingly important. The amazing combination of cheap recording technology and easy distribution via the Internet ensure that incidents that used to disappear into civilian oversight filing cabinets (at best) will now become sources of public outrage.

Tamayo appears to be taking matters a step further by putting his church behind the monitoring effort and strapping on a gun to let his targets know that he won't be intimidated. Variations of that model can easily be implemented by organizations acrss the country.

In St. Louis, the ACLU has distributed video cameras for exactly this use, and has provided training to volunteers. The effort has already had results. Orlando CopWatch volunteers patrol with video cameras to record police interactions with the public. Even police retaliation against a CopWatch activist helped the group's cause, since it drew press coverage.

So whether or not Pastor Tamayo is able to do as he promises, he's probably a pace-setter for future organized efforts to monitor authorities.

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Blogger Jehan said...

Hopefully, technology will improve to the point where rape kits don't get lost in transit, as was the case for Tracy Barker...

March 26, 2008 5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 19, 2009 12:09 AM  

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