Think before calling the police

What does a 911 call for police assistance mean, in the wake of police killings of George Floyd, Ma’Khia BryantRayshard Brooks and so many others?  Some of us on the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) Team have begun to consider what a call to the police might mean. 

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Northern Virginia is an organization whose mission is “activating white people to work for racial justice.” It has developed several handy guides to help us to decide when it might be advisable to call the police, and when it might not.  

The guides, specific to AlexandriaFairfax County, Arlington County and Prince William County, offer phone numbers and information for local alternatives to law enforcement, such as professionals in mental health, domestic violence, substance use and mediation.  And the SURJ guides include flowcharts, to help us to think through when it might be better to not call the police. They are each available in Spanish.

Another resource that calls on us to think before calling the police is a Ted Talk from Baratunde Thurston, How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time. He “explores the phenomenon of white Americans calling the police on black Americans who have committed the crimes of… eating, walking or generally “living while black.” In this profound, thought-provoking and often hilarious talk, he reveals the power of language to change stories of trauma into stories of healing — while challenging us all to level up.” (Thanks to Donna Gold for the link.)

It is worth pausing to consider more appropriate crisis resources, and how we might reinforce these community alternatives to the police.