What Should I Do If I Witness Police Brutality?

Written by on August 24, 2020

Documentation is essential when calling out state violence. This is what to do for those who encounter police abuse or misconduct. That is a part of a HuffPost sequence alternate options to policing. You’ll be able to learn the opposite items right here.

What ought to I do if I witness police committing violence?

The reply to this query is a bit sophisticated. It’s no secret that the present system that’s supposed to carry cops accountable largely protects them relatively than the general public they’re purported to serve. That is very true when the sufferer is Black or brown.

There have been too many cases when cops have used extreme pressure whereas their fellow officers stayed silent: In July 2014, different officers did nothing as Daniel Pantaleo suffocated Eric Garner, who stored repeating “I can’t breathe.” An almost equivalent scenario occurred once more on the finish of Might, when Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, killing him, whereas three different officers watched.

Natasha Scruggs, a legal protection and private damage lawyer primarily based in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, famous that in Floyd’s case, there have been no less than two 911 callers and a dispatcher on file voicing their concern about Chauvin’s pressure. These 911 calls didn’t save Floyd’s life, however they did present documentation, as did bystander footage, the discharge of which sparked the nationwide protests and helped result in arrests and indictments of the officers concerned.

Among the best issues you are able to do if you’re witnessing or experiencing police violence is to drag out your cellphone and begin recording, Scruggs stated. Residents have a proper to file, even when police will falsely declare you don’t, or let you know to maneuver.

Documentation can be usually one of the best recourse if costs are later introduced towards you or one other particular person, as it could possibly function proof.

“You might have rights once you’re pulled over,” she stated, for instance, “however these rights don’t matter till you get right into a courtroom.”

What ought to I do whereas I’m recording?

Palika Makam, senior program coordinator at Witness, a corporation that helps folks use video and expertise to guard their rights, stated that crucial factor you must take into account when documenting police misconduct and violence is your security. Bystanders who movie could change into the goal of police violence themselves.

Attempt to stand 6 toes away whereas recording. So long as you don’t intrude with the scenario, you’ve got the correct to file. She additionally famous that that is true no matter immigration standing, as police could ask about citizenship.

Maintain your digicam so that you simply seize as a lot visible and audio info as attainable, and attempt to keep away from saying something on digicam that would seem biased. She suggested that individuals narrate what’s happening much like a sports activities commentator. Attempt to seize particulars like badge numbers, license plates, uniforms, date and time.

If the police ask you to maneuver, make it clear within the footage that you simply’re complying by displaying your toes strolling again and stating that you’re backing away. However speaking whereas recording isn’t a requirement, Makam stated. Typically silence is strongest.

Makam additionally recommended locking your cellphone with a six-digit passcode, because the Fifth Modification protects residents from having to share that info throughout a authorized search or continuing. The legislation is a bit murky with regards to telephones with no passcode or telephones that may be unlocked with facial recognition or the proprietor’s fingerprint. There have been circumstances the place cops have been capable of skirt the Fifth Modification and procure entry to telephones with out the proprietor’s consent.

What about after?

Makam suggests taking a beat earlier than posting on social media.

“This kind of work, documenting, viewing traumatic photographs, they take a toll on an individual emotionally,” she instructed HuffPost. “So I believe it’s vital to verify in with your self earlier than you even evaluate the footage to see what you captured.”

She stated there are additionally strategic causes to attend, “in an effort to ensure your footage makes the most important influence.”

Makam stated that it’s sensible to succeed in out to advocacy teams to determine easy methods to launch the footage. This might imply doing so anonymously, as a result of bystanders who file typically change into the goal of retaliation — like Ramsey Orta, the person who filmed Garner’s dying and the one particular person on the scene who served time in jail afterwards.

Apart from filming, what are another alternate options to calling the police?

Scruggs, who’s additionally a jail abolition activist, stated she’s observed that the general public filming police misconduct when she’s within the discipline are Black or different folks of shade. Due to how police disproportionately goal these teams, her main and sobering recommendation about intervention is to “simply attempt to find yourself alive.”

If police do arrest you for filming or in any other case intervening, it’s greatest to go to the station, publish bail, get an lawyer ASAP, then attempt to battle it in courtroom. “Should you attempt to battle a cop on the road,” she stated, “the particular person with the gun and backed by the the state may have the higher hand.”

Makam stated that she’s additionally witnessed white allies, who’ve extra privilege, bodily intervene to dam folks of shade from police brutality.

“We’ve seen this all through historical past,” she stated, “however I do suppose it’s a robust choice for those who do have the privilege and the consolation.”

So if we will’t actually police the police, what could be finished?

The simplest technique to verify the police is thru group efforts, Scruggs and Makam stated. And every group is exclusive, with totally different wants.

Scruggs stated in the course of the Civil Rights period, folks used to comply with the police to verify they didn’t kill the particular person in custody.

Moreover, she stated, folks ― particularly those that are white ― must get uncomfortable with leaning on 911, as a result of it places people who find themselves disempowered ― particularly those that are Black ― in danger. When police are referred to as for psychological well being checks or different non-criminal points, escalation turns into an actual risk.

“When the folks committing that abuse are state actors themselves, it actually makes you notice that the true folks you may name on for assistance is your group, not the police,” stated Makam. “Bearing witness and documenting abuse, organizing mutual networks, supporting advocacy organizations and authorized support organizations are so essential to our well being and security and survival.”

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