You’ve seen the footage of the Minneapolis police officer with his knee on the head of a detained man. That man died. You’re aware that FOUR police officers present were fired from their jobs as a result and that charges are pending.
The question that came to mind was if I were present could I have acted to prevent this death? Followed by: Would I have acted while a witness with three other police officers present?
We all want to say yes to that question but would we?
There were three times in my life when I stood up for people who were being victimized. Never like this situation but… I was risking physical harm in one instance and personal respect in the other two. In one case it was a civilian woman being harassed by a small group of sailors. Physical harm was possible but it didn’t happen.
One time I made it my business to stand up for a colleague that had been taken advantage by a corrupt taxi driver. That’s a long story that ended with a bunch of taxi drivers asking me if I was going to have the man arrested. I decided not. And another time, I challenged two obnoxious strangers to cut the crap as they made fun of a young shuttle bus driver.
When these things happened, I acted without thinking. I was up on my toes and I was leaning into the action. I was affronted and I acted immediately.
We never know what we will do until it happens but I like to think I would have acted to confront the police officer with his knee on the man’s neck.
Which leads me to wonder, from the safety of my keyboard, what would have been a good approach to intervene and create a different outcome?
A Citizens Arrest may be personally dangerous with three police officers present but it seems as if it would have changed the narrative, the dynamic, just enough to maybe save the man’s life.
Why do I think this way?
- The scene was being recorded so there would be evidence of what I did.
- If I shouted that the police officer was using excessive force and that is a felony, each of the policemen would have recognized I knew what they were doing was a felony.
- If I shouted a second time that this was a felony and if the physical restraint of the man was not modified that I will make a citizens arrest of the police officer as was my right under Minnesota law. This would get their attention, too.
- If I shouted a third time that the witnessing police officers are to be charged as accomplices if they do nothing to change the restraint on the man, everyone will know I am serious.
- Under the law, I am allowed to take physical action to prevent a felony and then announce they are under arrest.
My hope is that the witnessing police officers would tell their buddy to get his knee off the neck of the man before number 5 happened.
It is likely I’d be arrested in any event. A small price to pay to save a man’s life but one never knows when courage flows in the veins what one will do.
When the heart pounds and the call-to-arms is all you can think of, one never knows how it will end.
I know I would be considered a threat. Up on toes, fingers extended, accusing officers in no uncertain terms that their actions were felonies and the felonies were being recorded, I can feel their eyes on me even now.
I hope I have the knowledge to understand who is being victimized by whom and adjust my behavior accordingly. I hope I have the courage to act in situations like that, too.
I hope we all do…