PSA to my white friends and followers:
In the wake of a phenomenally important guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial, I’d like to remind you all that the fallout of this case will likely mean more police violence against our Black friends and neighbors, not less. Looking at the statistics in the weeks leading up to this verdict shows that this is already the case. Police in this country are angry that society is beginning to hold them accountable for their abusive actions, and they are looking for revenge.
So if you see a cop interacting with a BIPOC, DO NOT walk away. Video record if you can (and as long as it doesn’t further jeopardize the safety of the BIPOC involved), but absolutely do not walk away. It is critical that we do our part and look out for people, and make cops think twice about abusing their powers of authority and near-immunity to murder citizens.
Adding to this that advance research on copwatching strategies, particularly ones employed locally, as laws can very from state to state, is going to be your friend if you try to do this. It’s easy to imagine yourself pulling out your phone and recording an interaction if you were to witness one, but there can be lot more intricacies than just taking a video. Would you know how to respond if an officer confronted you about your actions? Do you know how best to respect the rights and privacy of the individuals you’re intervening on the behalf of, and prevent the situation from becoming additionally traumatic?
If you’re interested in learning more to prepare yourself, so you can be as effective as possible if you witness a scenario that requires bystander intervention, here are some resources on copwatching to look over. I highly recommend reading over them several times and taking good notes – or anything else that will help you commit the contents to memory – because this stuff will escape you in an actual stressful scenario (signed, someone who has attended multiple copwatch trainings and still totally blanked on most of what I learned the one time I’ve directly confronted an officer)
- For those local to the Minneapolis, where we’re very likely to see the highest amount of police retaliation in the days to come, the Twin Cities Worker’s Defense Alliance has a How to Copwatch manual, as well as a printable Know Your Rights zine
- United Against Police Terror San Diego has a Copwatching Manual intended to be fairly broadly applicable to copwatchers in the US
- The ACLU offers advice on copwatching in the form of Fighting Police Abuse: A Community Action Manual
- WeCopwatch have a large variety of resources on copwatching and copwatchers rights’ on their site
A fair number of these resources are aimed at people interested in setting up regular copwatching patrols, but even for people primarily interested in being prepared in the instance of witnessing a scenario in which copwatching is necessary, it’s a good idea to do your homework and know how to be the most effective bystander you can. Knowing your rights and other important things to keep in mind will help you avoid being caught-off guard should you end up needing to record an interaction – or aggravating a situation, which is a real risk to consider. I also recommend looking up the specific laws relevant to your own area that these resources may or may not manage to cover.