So you had a less-than awesome interaction with someone who wears a badge – what can you now do?
Document & Disseminate
Write down a detailed summary of what unfolded. Create an objective overview that will bring someone totally unfamiliar with the incident up-to-speed.
It’s important to tackle this step while the incident is fresh as details that are now clear will become hazy with the passage of time.
What was the date and time? Where did the interaction happen? Who were the parties involved? What were their badge numbers, employers, contact information? What was going on immediately prior to the interaction? What was given as rationale for stopping you? What was said during the exchange?
Making time to do this now will actually a time-saver. Instead of repeating the same story multiple times to different people, you can just point them to your stand-alone piece of content. It’ll also then be easier to share to anyone with an Internet connection.
The Court of Public Opinion is Powerful
The more others know about your situation the better.
You know that filing a complaint won’t do anything – after all, it’s “investigated” by someone who’s a friend, or at least, a colleague, of the aggressor.
Your efforts to bring-about transparency will maximize accountability for those who acted in the wrong. It is also an effective way to get-dropped any bs charges levied at you.
You can do this via text or video.
If text, sit down in front of your computer and write-out a thorough overview. Then walk away, tackle another task, and come back a little later to review and fix anything needed. Even better – let a friend read your recount. Ask them what is unclear and fill in those questions in.
If video, sit down in front of your webcam or other recording device and give a narrative of what happened. Depending on your skill level, software, and the need, you can choose to edit the video. Once completed, upload it to your YouTube channel or another video-hosting site.
Whether text or video, frontload the content. Provide a succinct overview right away to act as a hook, then spend the remainder of your post or video going into detail to support your claims. Think too what the police employee(s) with whom you interacted may claim about the content you create – are there any holes that you can proactively address?
Focus on the individual(s) who were in the wrong, not the entire agency. Provide contact information.
CopBlock.org gets 4-5,000 unique visitors a day so consider using the site as an outlet to share your post or video http://copblock.org/submit
When the individual(s) who acted in the wrong knows others are aware of their misdeeds, the less likely they are to repeat them, either to you or someone in the future. Plus as others see that you’re speaking out, it’ll empower them to do the same. And we all become safer.
Note that some people opt-not to make-public their entire incident (the raw footage, for example) as police employees have been known to rewrite reports to better-match the objective facts portrayed via video. If this is a concern, you could attempt to obtain the police report prior to making live the related footage.
File a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Work to obtain all the documentation the police have about your situation. The more such information you have the more-likely lies and omissions made by “the authorities” will be seen, say between two police reports filed by two different individuals about the same incident. Also, if say, video surveillance is gotten, your story can be objectively supported.
A FOIA request doesn’t have to be fancy. You can write a request using a pen on a regular piece of paper. Include a sentence or two overview of who you are, the information sought, and your contact information, such as:
To Whom It May Concern:
This document is to serve as a Freedom of Information Act request. Please provide to me any and all content, including but not limited to dashcam video and related audio, dispatcher logs, police reports, internal memos, related departmental policies, from the incident that occurred on DATE at LOCATION involving YOUR NAME & CASE NUMBER/CHARGES IF KNOWN. Also, please include any and all information related to the number, date, and outcome of complaints made against POLICE EMPLOYEE NAME/BADGE NUMBER.
YOUR NAME PRINTED
YOUR PHONE NUMBER
YOUR MAILING ADDRESS
When submitting the FOIA request film the exchange. Or better yet, have a friend accompany you who can film. Ask for a receipt, or a signed/stamped copy of your FOIA request. The more each step is documented the better.
If you have supporting documentation like police reports save them as a .pdf then upload to http://Scridb.com
Connect With Others
The more support you have on the ground the better.
If there are others in your area I’d suggest contacting them as they may be able to assist sharing content online, making calls, or accompanying you when filing your FOIA or if you venture into legal land. http://CopBlock.org/Groups
Learn From the Experience
Would having an audio or video clip of the incident have been a game-changer? Don’t find yourself in the same situation again. Always keep a device nearby to video or audio record. [specific camera suggestions will soon be shared on a document linked-to here]
If you have a smartphone download a streaming app (like Bambuser) to stream offsite: http://CopBlock.org/Apps
Keep in mind that text on paper can’t constrain the actions of individuals. Even if a statute says a police employee has to do something, that doesn’t mean it will. That is the nature of the current institution that’s based on double-standards.
Incidents like the one you experienced are are now seeking remedy for will continue to occur until the institution itself is changed. That is happening: Want to End Police Brutality? Focus on the Institution
File a Police Complaint
Working through internal police mechanisms, such as filing a complaint, very rarely results in any substantive outcome, but some encourage this tactic be pursued if only to create a paper trail and tie-up police resources.
Also, if making public an interaction you had with a police employee, the fact that you may be able to point-out that a dozen (or more) other complaints have already been lodged against him or her, it can help demonstrate their record of not being too professional.
Police complaints can sometimes be filed through the website of the police outfit where the police employee works. If so, fill-out the form (perhaps using some or all of your write-up about the event already done) and be sure to include your contact information. Alternatively, call or visit the police outfit to learn their process – if you do that, be sure to film as those seeking to file complaints are sometimes questioned or harassed.
Whatever method you utilize, be sure to get a receipt of some kind – a print-out from the online interface, or a signature/stamp if done in-person. And inquire about the timeline expected – is there a mandatory response within a week? A month?
In some instances, the person filing a complaint may eventually be told that their claims were “sustained” – meaning that they had merit, but the repercussions (if any) toward the police employee in question are almost never disclosed as it’s deemed a “personnel matter.” If anything “retraining” may be mentioned as a consequence.