If you’re like me, you’ve been asking yourself if you witnessed the horrifying brutality, we saw last week to Mr. Floyd, what could you do? What would you do? What should you do?
I like to think I’d do something, but what would that be? So, I began researching, beginning with what you or I could do.
To begin with — bear witness. One of the recent statements I’ve heard several times that has moved me is that this type of brutality isn’t new. What’s new is it’s being recorded. Until recently, there have only been a few isolated cases of documented police brutality, such as the amateur recording of the Rodney King being beaten by LAPD in 1991. However, the world has changed. According to Pew Research, 81 % of Americans have smartphones.
“Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union, recommends what many in Floyd’s case did: bearing witness, recording the event, advocating for the detainee and communicating with other officers on the scene to try to convince them to intervene.” — USA Today — Bear witness, record, de-escalate: How race may affect what bystanders are called to do in cases like George Floyd’s
Let it be Known
Let the police know you are recording and encourage others to record and to verbally share that they are also recording the incident. The more, the better. Another thing you can do is to remind all officers at the scene that they have a sworn duty to intervene when procedures aren’t being followed.
I’ve found this recommended several times. In each case, they suggest you call 911 and ask for a police supervisor to come to the scene of the incident. But that might be too late so, ask the operator to have a police supervisor radio the officers. You may need the patrol car number or badge numbers of the officers. Ask others to call 911 as well. I’ve also read that it may be helpful to know the number for local Law enforcement and call there also.
Contact Local New Media
Most news media have hotlines. For example, in Indianapolis, you can contact local TV affiliates for a scoop via email, phone, or twitter.
Post it live on social media. Use Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social media you’re most comfortable with.
Prepare yourself by first understanding what you can do and then by having the resources you need. Phone numbers you may need:
- Local police
- Local news media hotlines
Should You Attempt to Intervene?
Almost everything I’ve read recommends not to intervene because it may put you directly in harm’s way. I’m not sure that faced with watching a man die, I could stop myself. So, what could you or I do?
“I’m hesitant to say anybody should step in because I don’t want people’s lives to be risked, but I do think there is a role, especially for white allies. If they see an incident of police brutality happening, I think they absolutely have to step in and say something, just because officers often interpret black and brown people as threats for absolutely no reason, other than deep-seated racism.” — Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union
If you approach the officer stay calm, be professional, do what you can to deescalate the situation. Use respectful speech, call the officer sir or ma’am. Say please and thank you, and ask permission to approach, to talk, to ask a question. But only if you’re white. Be an ally.
My 14-year-old granddaughter and her mother Face Timed me last night. My granddaughter wants to go to a peaceful daytime demonstration so she can be an ally. Her mother is taking her.
Take Action for the Future of Law Enforcement in Your Community
In this white paper, the ACLU lays out what you can do to make an impact in your community. ACLU — FIGHTING POLICE ABUSE: A COMMUNITY ACTION MANUAL
So, What Should You Do and What Would You Do?
The truth is I don’t know what I’d do because I haven’t faced it. However, what both you and I can do is be ready. Be ready to bear witness, alert authorities, inform the officer involved, share on social media, and get involved in community action. I’m ready, are you?
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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash