So there are groups that do this, they stay in highly policed areas on shifts and bring cameras and such, and record to make sure police brutality doesn’t escalate, and when it happens there’s evidence against it.
But that’s not the only way it can happen.
Every single person is entitled to watch an arrest go down as long as they are not obstructing or interfering. That means, if you see cops bumrush someone, even if that person is waving a gun, you are allowed, even legally permitted and encouraged to watch the events occur.
This is important white folks, because the cops work inyourservice. Oh sure, they’re supposedly in the service of “the common good” but we all know that means protecting white people.
And now a story, when I was in high school, and my mom was working under a horrific principal, she was late to work one day because there was something going on in our neighborhood. Cops were gathered near our pharmacy and a guy was on the roof (it’s a little over one story, so he wasn’t a jumper or anything) and she stayed as long as she could and watched the scenario go down for a while. Not because she’s trifling. not because she’s nosy. But because she saw a POC and cops gathered and said to herself “I want to make sure this goes by the book.”
And that’s all it takes to be a cop watcher.
You acknowledge that you, as a white person, are in a relative position of safety and you watch. You bear witness, because your voice, unfortunately, carries more weight than ours in the criminal justice system.
Justice is not blind, nor should you be.
If there are cops, and they outnumber an individual, shit, even if it’s 1:1, it is your responsibility to keep an eye on the scenario and take down whatever information you can. And if it looks like something shady is going on, you areobligatedto call in to your local precinct and say “Listen, I saw X happen on Y, and it looked questionable.” And if you get a negative response, well, y’know what? You find out if there’s a civilian oversight committee. In NYC we have one, but they’re underfunded and continually being legislated against (currently there’s a statute of 18 months from the time of the event within which you have to file charges).
If the prospect of keeping vigilant about cops scares you, imagine being a POC, and knowing that no matter what you do, you could be railroaded by a system that wants to not only disenfranchise you, but has no intentions of treating you as a human being.
Take your fears and shove ‘em down, because they’ll never be anything when compared to what we face on a daily basis.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT IS SO FUNNY??? THIS POST HAS SEVEN FUCKING NOTES. BECAUSE GIVING WHITE PEOPLE SOME INFORMATION AND TOOLS THAT THEY CAN ACTUALLY USE TO TAKE ACTION AS ALLIES IS NOT WORTH THEM LIKING OR REBLOGGING AND SHARING WITH EACH OTHER. IT’S NOT LIKE THEY ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO DO ANYTHING WITH IT! RIGHT? RIGHT? IT’S “FUNNY” CUZ IT’S JUST BLACK AND BROWN LIVES ON THE LINE ANYWAY.
word. we ALL have white followers. but they prefer to reblog jokes or pretty pictures or “universal” (read: non-racial shit) things. let it be a good, useful critique on them and their structures and their fucking bullshit. let it be a word of advice so they can stop being oppressive dicks and *crickets*
we all see you.
But seriously if y’all see some fishy arrests of PoC (or otherwise, for that matter) going down, it’d be great if you could help out as a witness. ’Cause I can vouch personally for the fact that when PoC speak in each others’ favor, it is immediately disregarded as “helping a brother out”.
I have 2,433 followers. The very least you could do is stop and read this.
Watching the police has become such a habit, that I was sort of taken by surprise when my daughters asked me what I was doing the first time they were with me. Why are we still, we should go? They asked. I said…sometimes the police need to know that people are watching them.
We’d been walking down Sherbrooke, and what the hell, I’d forgotten it was May Day. So there was a march, and the riot cops were out in all their insane scary bug-like armour. And you could see them pushing the people in the march who were straggling. My daughters asked why, and I couldn’t help it…the cops were already in earshot, but I said, “Some people feel good when they push other people around I guess.”
It made my daughters really nervous and when I thought about it, I was nervous too. No, I don’t trust that the cops aren’t going to do something that is going to end up with me and my kids getting hurt. I’ve been ‘rounded up’ before, and had the police driver of the van slam on the breaks every couple of seconds so those of us seated in the back would go flying all over the place. I got a nice bruise on the side of my face before they finally stopped and kicked us out because they needed the space for ‘worse rioters’.
But whatever. Watching ‘regular’ police action is more important. When a car screeches up, and two cops get out and they start getting physical with the three boys sitting on a bench, yes, you need to stop and stand there. And yes, it’s scary. Because the ability of police officers to use force and pretty much get away with whatever they want to do IS SCARY. They have that power because it doesn’t get questioned enough.
I sincerely hope you personally have never experienced police brutality. But you can watch it happen pretty much any hour of the day if you open your eyes.
I can`t count the number of times I’ve heard of the police abusing their power, and you know what the number one deterrent is to ever holding them accountable?
Lack of witnesses.
The funny thing is…there are almost always witnesses. Just not ones willing to give witness.
Know what rights you have in your state/county/city when it comes to filming police, and if there are exceptions for certain situations. In most places it’s legal, but in Illinois and a couple other places it’s a felony. Know what you’re allowed to do- I live on the WI/IL state line, and I’ve had WI cops try to intimidate me out of filming before.
When I was at a protest in Chicago (the eavesdropping law used to prosecute people who film cops was temporarily not enforced for the NATO summit) I remember seeing these 3 cops throw a guy on a wall in an L station. They were screaming at him “be a fucking man” and all sorts of other stuff as a group of us walked into the otherwise deserted station, and I pulled out my camera. Suddenly they were very polite, and then an NLG observer showed up and there was suddenly no problem at all with the guy. Conspicuously watching, and especially filming, CAN make an immediate difference.
the supreme court supposedly struck down anti-copwatching laws in 2012. check it out. it definitely *was* a felony, i remember all that. but i’m pretty sure i read that the supreme court deemed those shits unconstitutional.
seriously though this shit is so important especially if you’re a white gentrifier. the police are a tool of gentrification. if you are a gentrifier and you have any analysis at all about the neighborhood you’re complicit in fucking over, you will be up on the cop activity and if there’s someone getting harassed or arrested you really need to stay and bear witness. not all the people getting displaced get to move to a shittier area. some folks who get displaced are arrested, then evicted for not paying rent or for doing “criminal activity” in their rented home. policing is part and parcel of the process of gentrification - which is a process of colonization and ethnic cleansing.