Year after year, the city of Stockton, CA pops up near the top of the lists of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.
But if you ask some in the city's thriving activist community where some of the worse types of violence is coming from, you might get an unexpected response: the police.
"We believe is an ongoing problem with abuse of power with the police, as well as cases of targeted harassment, brutality, several shootings that we feel are awfully suspicious," James, a spokesperson for the group Stockton Police Department, Corruption Reporting Page (SPDCRP), told Fusion in a phone interview.
James asked not to be identified by his full name, fearing retribution from police for his group's activism.
The group has developed a considerable online following by asking residents to record (see their YouTube channel) and report what they say are persistently abusive encounters with police. Their latest initiative came in the form of a flier. In it, SPDCRP offers a "$2,500 reward for any info and/or video leading to the conviction and/or firing of any Stockton police officer." The flier contains the names of 14 officers, which Fusion has redacted.
The award will be paid for by donors who wish to remain anonymous, James said.
The Stockton Police Department has taken issue with the campaign.
"This flier appears to invite retribution against our officers. I’m concerned that the flier might be intended to put officers at risk, which would be reprehensible, and it is sad and disheartening to see a flier like this with a $2,500 bounty," said the department's chief Eric Jones in a statement.
James denies that his group is advocating for any kind of violence towards police officers. "We're only trying to motivate people to do what they should be doing anyways, and in our opinion that is filming the police," he said. "What we are doing is trying to get rid of the criminals who operate under the color of the law in Stockton, because there are good people who could be doing the same job, while keeping the constitutional rights of citizens in mind."
The origins of the group trace back to the aftermath of the death of 16-year old Stockton resident James Rivera, who was shot and killed by police after a car chase in 2010, he said. In 2012, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office cleared the police of any wrongdoing in that case.
James added that the group saw an uptick in last October, support when 33 officers were caught on video shooting into a car containing a hostage taken from a bank robbery. At the time, the police chief admitted his officers fired over 600 rounds in the incident, killing everyone inside. "A lot of people just labeled us police haters, and said that we were on a witch hunt, but after they killed the hostage, it opened the eyes of a lot of people," James said.
The department "violated numerous standard police protocols in their response,” the deceased hostages' attorney told the Los Angeles Times this week.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.