Over the last several years, with the heightened awareness of police brutality, I have stopped on several occasions while on my lunch break walks downtown after witnessing a cop/cops interacting with Black men. (In these cases, they were all men.) Usually there were several other people too who would also stop their roll and provide vigilance, because YOU NEVER FUCKING KNOW. Gotta have your phones out, at the ready, at all times.
But for some reason, I never actually thought this the whole way through. Yeah, I’m standing there, glaring at the cops, getting ready to —- what? What exactly is the protocol in these situations? Am I allowed to run over there and start kicking the cops? (Henry just said NO!) And especially now that the Black Lives Matter movement is running full throttle (good!! I hope it stays that way until CHANGES ARE MADE), I also realized that while I have been seeing a ton of information being shared on ways to help, ways to check to our privilege, ways to donate, etc., I haven’t actually seen anything in any of my social media feeds on what to do if we find ourselves in a bystander position when a racially-charged police situation does escalate.
So I googled it because this seems important to know, right? Like, it could potentially happen to any one of us, where we are now that person who can make or break a case against police brutality. Like, can we actually call the police on the police? That seems…weird?
Of all the articles I read, only one actually said to do this, even though it seems counterproductive (like, aren’t we just doing the cops a solid by inviting more of the bad guys to the party?), but apparently, if they hear the dispatch call, it can get them to back off and check themselves. I dunno, this seems like an unlikely outcome, if you ask me. Maybe get the firemen on the scene!? COULD WE LIE AND SAY THAT WE’RE HURT AND NEED AN AMBULANCE, INSTEAD?
The general consensus seems to be: RECORD EVERYTHING. We, as American citizens, are within our legal rights to record everything the police do, as long as it’s on public grounds and we stay 6 feet away. They are not allowed to arrest us for recording, demand us to stop, or confiscate our phones without a warrant.
I can’t even begin to imagine how helpless every single witness in every single police brutality case has felt, having to stand on the sidelines, shouting at them to stop, and being unable to interfere further, for risk of being fucking killed as well.
We have got to keep the ACAB mentality and assume the worst when we were out in public and see a Black person being stopped by police. It’s us against them and if we are going to say that we are allies to our Black friends, then we have to fucking stand up and supervise these altercations until there is some kind of massive law enforcement reformation and cops can maybe one day be trusted to do their jobs like normal fucking decent human beings.
(Personal side note: I have hated cops for 25 years of my life and will stop and glare at them every chance I get. Especially those cop-dicks on motorcycles. I yelled, ‘WOW YOU’RE REAL FUCKING COOL” at one of them a few months ago and felt so good about it for days. BRING IT, PIGS.)
Sources for more detailed info and not my amateur breakdown:
Ella Baker Center : this one also gives guidelines on what to do if you’re the one involved with the police, some of which I wasn’t aware.