The not-for-profit National Police Association recently created and released a public service campaign to raise awareness about the need for public assistance to be offered to law enforcement officers that appear to be in a struggle while they are in the process of completing an arrest. Public citizens that are witness to this type of incident are urged to not film the struggle, but to immediately use their mobile device to call 9 – 1 – 1 for professional law enforcement backup to arrive on the scene as quickly as possible.
The public service campaign was very clear that citizens should not standby and film an officer in danger. What has become apparent to the leaders of the National Police Association and to many law enforcement officers across the nation is that there is a trend growing that shows more and more citizens choosing to try and capture the incidents on film, most likely in advance of using it on their social media. With most citizens attempting to record these incidents, it directly impacts a police officer’s ability to resolve the incident without hurting anyone or getting hurt themselves and reflects a lack of desire to assist when an officer is struggling to complete their duties. This lack of assistance has become a dangerous model of behavior with the NPA citing many moments reported where people are choosing to film incidents on cell phones instead of calling 9 – 1 – 1.
The “Assist the Officer” Campaign is Launched
The National Police Association chose November 2020 as the launching point for the “Assist the Officer” campaign inspired by a disturbing trend among members of the public. The trend being targeted by the NPA in its series of public service announcements looks at the issue of law enforcement officers facing violence as they go about their duties. The NPA believes many of the most outrageous moments of violence against its members could have been lessened in severity had the public intervened in the simplest ways. The announcement from the National Police Association explains the simple steps that people could take in the moment if they were to happen upon an event in which it seems the officer is struggling to complete an arrest.
A Dangerous Situation
The PSA from the National Police Association is designed to highlight the problems facing law enforcement officers if the public chooses not to intervene when things turn violent. The NPA is not looking for citizens to step into the fray and become involved in dangerous situations, but they are asking the public to stop filming incidents and call 9-1-1 to seek help for the officer in need. Cell phones and mobile devices are not being used in a way that is assisting officers as they go about their daily work but are being used to spread videos featuring struggling members of the law enforcement community in a state of distress.
Incidents Prompting the Launch of “Assist the Officer”
The National Police Association detailed several incidents taking place over the last few years where the public failed to help struggling officers. The launch of the campaign came with details of an incident in North Carolina that led to the officer being airlifted to the hospital. Videos were published to social media platforms showing the beating of the officer without any witnesses choosing to dial 9 – 1 – 1 and ask for assistance. The aim of the “Assist the Officer” is to raise awareness of the problem of officers being left to fend for themselves by members of the public when they face violent situations. By failing to assist an officer in need, the NPA believes the streets of communities around the U.S. are being made dangerous.
In Baltimore, Maryland just last month on October 9th, 2020, a police officer specifically assigned to ensure the safety of riders using the city’s MTA was found lying motionless and unconscious at the entrance to the Upton Metro Subway station. There were no attempts by any of a number of regular citizens attempting to save him. Instead, citizens were seen filming the incapacitated officer with their mobile device. Witnesses assumed and reported that filming took place with the eventual publishing of the filmed incident on to the person’s social accounts in order to elicit more views of the controversial footage. The citizen may have wanted the video footage perhaps in an effort to gain followers or simply for the shock factor and the hope of the reported story establishing itself as viral content on the internet.
Citizens across the country have taken to filming officers in danger and posting to their social media channels. The PSA attempts to encourage all citizens to follow the same steps if and when they find themselves in this situation. First, the witness should alert 9 – 1 – 1. Secondly, ask the distressed police officer if they can help and/or intervene in any way. If the officer does not respond or does not accept a citizen’s request to help them, then and only then, should a citizen use their mobile device to capture the struggle for the police officer in case it is needed later as evidence in the court of law or the law enforcement officer or his precinct were to request the footage. Through this PSA, the NPA aims to create awareness around the dangers posed to both officers and citizens when witnesses choose to film officers in distress with their phones instead of calling 9 – 1 – 1 for assistance.
The “Assist the Officer” campaign will be broadcast nationally on TV stations and through national radio.