Who to Call When You Can't Call the Police
This weekend, Shaun King, a civil rights activist and writer for the New York Daily News , posted on his Facebook page that cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University had knelt during the national anthem and were subsequently harassed at their homes by local law enforcement.
Setting aside for the moment the specifics of this particular incident, the recent public discussion on
Talk to Civic and Religious Leaders
Who to call when you can't call the police is an "an age-old question, and a question we deal with every day," says Burris. The short answer, he says, is to contact local leaders who are not law enforcement . "Take it to people outside of the [police] department. Talk to local community leaders and political leaders. In a small town, talk to religious leaders or other people with significant social standing-social and civic leaders. These people have stature the police have to respect. It puts pressure on the department to be responsible."
Contact Your local CCRB
"The police are not the first point of contact for the civilian complaint review board ," says Burris. If your town has one, lodge a complaint there. "This puts the police on notice that they are being watched."
Find an Attorney
"Absolutely contact a lawyer," says Burris. A good place to start is the
National Police Accountability Project
, of which Burris is a member. "These are all good lawyers who believe in this kind of work. They're dedicated police-practice lawyers." He notes, however, that there aren't necessarily practitioners of this kind in every small town, but the web site is a good starting point. "And it's best to find a lawyer with experience with the police in your community."
Use the Media, but Carefully
"Particularly if you're in the right-clearly in a solid position, like taking a knee," getting the media involved can be beneficial. But Burris cautions against doing this without some help from someone who is pretty media-savvy. "I'd be careful," he says. How the story is written or is received is hard to control.
"Of course, you should document [your complaints]. If you're injured, you need medical records and photos, videos if you have them. The more visuals you have, the better off you are," says Burris. And keep following up with your local leaders, the CCRB, the attorney if you have one. As Burris says, it lets the police know they are being watched, too.