North Texas Citizens Police the Police

A group called Cop Block has members following officers with cameras to record their every move, but Arlington police say they are creating potentially dangerous situations.

It's a trend that's growing in Texas and across the country: citizens patrolling for police officers while those officers are patrolling the streets.

"We go out and film police activity in an attempt to hold them accountable for their actions," said Joseph Tye, who is part of Cop Block.

He and other cop watchers say they're providing a public service when they record officers who are making stops or patrolling the roads, then post those videos online, helping to ensure police don't overstep their bounds.

"We don't hate the police," said Jose, another member of Cop Block, who did not want to give out his last name. "We just want them to abide by the laws."

The Arlington Police Department says it has no problem with citizens filming its officers and supports cop watchers' right to do so. What concerns them, though, is how it's being done.

"The officers are actually being followed," said Lt. Chris Cook, a spokesperson for the Arlington Police Department. "And a lot of times the officers don't have any idea who's following them. It can certainly raise suspicion. We want our officers to be safe. In this day and age we live in, there are times that people want to do harm to officers."

A video posted last week shows members of Cop Block following an Arlington patrol officer they believed to be speeding down Cooper Street. The officer eventually pulls into a parking lot and the cop watchers get out of their car to confront him.

"This concerns me," the officer told them. "I don't know what you guys are up to."

NBC 5 asked Cop Block to respond to those concerns.

"How does it make you feel when you see a cop behind you?" said Tye. "If they're going to do it, maybe they should get a taste of their own medicine."

Cook says the department is interested in meeting with any cop watching groups to discuss ways they can both achieve their goals without creating risky situations.

"In some of these videos, some of the tactics can be very distracting for the officer, to the point that their officer safety is not to the level it should be," said Cook. "We'd prefer that they videotape us from a distance that keeps them safe and allows us to conduct our business."

In February, the department sent a letter to another cop watch group called The Tarrant County Peaceful Streets Project, inviting them to meet with officers about this issue. The group has not responded.

Tye and Jose, meanwhile, say they will continue to be on the lookout for officers with their cameras ready.

"The police have an opportunity to show their professionalism as well," said Jose. "They have the opportunity to say, 'Hey, let's look good in front of these guys' cameras so we can let them know we're good police officers.'"

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