Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Arrest Documentation

Usually, I'm perfectly OK with police action - pulling over traffic violators, deterring violence, and generally enforcing the laws designed to prevent society from devolving into a commons tragedy. But I notice that the attention of peace officers often falls more heavily, in ways that seem unfair to me, on those less privileged.

I've been struggling for the last few years with my instinct to just continue on my way when I see some action (police or otherwise) that doesn't sit right. It's easy to ignore other people's problems, and likely, if I knew all the facts, I would agree with whatever the officer was doing. But often (and this I acknowledge may be an anti-authoritarian bias of mine), I feel like the officer is overstepping their authority to stop and question citizens.

Examples that I have encountered where the opportunity to witness has presented itself and I have continued on my way:
 - cycling along Foothill Expy in the morning and passing a Latino man in a small delivery truck pulled over by an officer
 - cycling along Sunnyvale-Saratoga in the morning and passing a man on foot at a corner being questioned by an officer
 - driving along El Camino and passing a disheveled Black man at a bus stop being questioned by multiple officers

By walking by, I am tacitly agreeing to be a member of the society that hires police officers to take this particular action. I think it is too easy to assume we know what is going on there and we are OK with it. That police officer is an embodiment of myself deciding to use force.

I think we've given police too much authority to interfere in the activities of citizens that they think are weird or unusual (e.g. not having a shirt on, poking around in bushes, sitting on a sidewalk, yelling). Too broad of an authority to decide what constitutes a threat to public safety. To counter that, I feel motivated to use my privilege as a tall, white, wealthy, intelligent male to witness, document, and question police actions I encounter that don't feel quite right.

I would be thankful for a fellow citizen watching and documenting, if I were being arrested or questioned by the enforcers of the law.

Resolving this question of whether I should or shouldn't think twice, document, or even interfere, will only get better if I actually practice.



I live in Berkeley now, and frequently travel over to San Francisco, so compared to living in Sunnyvale suburbs for the last 5 years, I'm exposed to more frequent police action.

Here's a video I took on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 4:37pm at the intersection of 5th and Bryant (37.7783, -122.3998) in San Francisco. Please contact me if you have concerns about this video being public.


0:50 - the man is injected with something by paramedic (perhaps a sedative as he does not seem to verbalize as much for the rest of the video). verbal discomfort, shock, and anger.
1:10 - lots of "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," as if in pain
7:40 - lifted onto a stretcher
8:40 - interview with bystander witness. "That should have never happened".

I was curious to follow up on this, so I went looking for some police reports. Conveniently, SF has a public database of police incident reports that is updated every few days. There is a visualization tool online, but I found it easier to use the map already provided to narrow in on the incident by location and date/time. The database entries do not have much detail, but I was able to find the Incident Numbers for the incidents most likely to be the one I saw. The time listed was about an hour off of what I observed.

To get additional info about the incident in order to label my video, I filled out a couple Request for Incident Report forms and emailed them to the SFPD. They got back to me in just a few days with the full report as written by the arresting officer.

The Incident Report (# 190029689) for the arrest of Mr. Foster is linked here:

Interesting to note the difference in narratives between the officer's report and the first-hand witness I interview in my video. The officer reports that he was kicked by Mr. Foster, whereas the witness reports that Mr. Foster was just sitting on the curb. The officer reports no complaints of pain, whereas the video clearly documents discomfort.

I feel that I still don't have enough information to pass judgement on any actions in this video. Except for the fact that I strongly do not approve of using an injection without consent.

But I feel that taking the video was worthwhile and I'll probably do it again.





No comments :

Post a Comment