Bobby Seale vividly remembers what prompted his call to action nearly 50 years ago.
"From my house, I witnessed policemen viciously brutalizing," said Seale, who founded the Black Panther Party during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Authorities attacked protesters during the peak of the Vietnam War outside his Oakland, Calif., home. He says the mission to hold police accountable is as relevant now as it was a half century ago. He joined Austin residents at a summit to address the issue on Saturday.
"It's there, it's a problem,” he said. “It's a police state in more ways than one. In the 1960s, it was really viciously overt."
Black Panthers followed police, armed with tape recorders, law books and guns.
The Austin-based Peaceful Streets Project keeps watch of local police with cell phones and video cameras.
Joshua Cottle supports the group's mission.
"What I hope is those who love it already are galvanized further, and I hope that those who are estranged to it are introduced to question the structures of authority that are always imposed upon them,” Cottle said.
The conference follows two recent incidents.
Last month, Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert chased down 32-year-old Larry Jackson, Jr. The unarmed Jackson died from a gunshot to the back of the neck.
In May, San Marcos Police say Corporal James Palermo slammed a 22-year-old woman to the ground. His chief filed criminal charges and had Palermo arrested.
Seale says that's one sign of progress.
"In my day--in the early days--they didn't put them on trial. They didn't even get to trial," Seale said.
But Seale said there's plenty of work ahead, which he believes can be accomplished, but only with public support.
Seale wants to see citizen review panels given more power and kept independent of political influence. Austin's panel is appointed by the City Manager and council members.