What to do if you witness an altercation involving police

What to do if you witness an altercation involving police

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Across the country, three high-profile altercations involving police officers, which each resulted in the death of an African American, have sparked outrage.

In February, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed after being followed by two white men in their pickup truck.

In March, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed after Louisville Metro Police served a no-knock drug warrant at her home.

On Monday, a bystander captured a video of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Floyd later died at the hospital.

With those cases in mind, WAVE 3 News asked two law enforcement experts what people should do if they witness a police altercation.

“[Cell phones] are so readily available right now, and as law enforcement, we need to understand that," St. Matthews Police Chief Barry Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson told WAVE 3 News he talks to his officers often about making arrests while cameras are rolling. He said he welcomes the extra eyes as long as people are shooting video at a safe distance.

“I have no issue with anyone videoing our officers," Wilkerson said. "I think as law enforcement we need to be as transparent as we can be. We do the right things, and things will work out in our favor.”

WAVE 3 News’ Safety and Security Expert D’Shawn Johnson agreed. Johnson has spent roughly two decades in law enforcement, and he said cameras of all kinds can add an extra layer of accountability.

“It’s a great tool to use as long as it’s done in the right way," Johnson said.

Johnson also said if people witness a police altercation, their goal should be to become the best witness they can be. He urges people to stay a safe distance from the incident and to be aware of their surroundings. He said if the case is serious enough, those bystanders can be called to testify in court.

“That’s always going to come into play; a good witness and a solid recording is always good evidence in court,” Johnson said.

That said, both Wilkerson and Johnson told WAVE 3 News there are things bystanders should not do.

Johnson said bystanders should not immediately post a video of a police altercation on social media, particularly if they are concerned someone may have been killed.

“The last thing you want is someone’s family to see their loved one in distress on social media platforms," Johnson said. "Don’t trade in our morals and values for likes and retweets.”

Both experts agree witnesses should never try to intervene in a confrontation because it can put everyone’s safety at risk, and it may even result in additional arrests.

“Obviously they don’t need to incite what’s going. If they think something’s wrong, I would be happy to view a video of any of our officers doing anything. You know, bring that to our attention and we’ll address it,"

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.