When You Can’t Call The Police Because They Might Kill Somebody

Here is a link to a resource for: What to Do Instead of Calling The Police, compiled by Aaron Jones


The police exist to protect white people and respond to white fear. That is their core function. That is what white supremacy means in practical terms. So until white people say “We don’t need you, we don’t want you killing for us anymore, we are going to stop paying you to kill for us, you’re fired.” Then the killing will likely continue and escalate.

–Taj James


I sat by my window and I watched. Across the street, a party had turned ugly. The windows had no blinds. It was nighttime and all of the lights were on. I could see into the kitchen. There were too many people in that too small space and each one seemed belligerent and trying to hurt somebody or trying to keep somebody belligerent from hurting somebody. Everyone was shouting. Loud enough to raise the dead.

Their kids had been playing in the street. Before the shouting started. Little black kids running around, racing on their scooters like I used to be.

The fighting was getting intensely physical. People were clearly real, real intoxicated. They knocked the refrigerator down and kept on going.

My heart raced. What should I do?

I knew I wasn’t going to call the police; that’s for damn sure. I knew that these people had a better chance of surviving their own drunk or drugged violent impulses than they did of surviving the police’s sober violent impulses.

I didn’t notice any kids in the rooms with the violent adults. Some were crying outside. Some were in cars waiting for their parents to take them home.

Everyone in the block could hear the shouting. The fighting was loud and public and chaotic.

I was so afraid for them. I was mostly afraid that some neighbor would call the cops. It’s the kind of situation that would inspire that kind of response. I wanted to go over there and try to deescalate it, but I didn’t know how and I was afraid. And if all of those people who were already trying to get the fighting parties to calm down weren’t helping at all, what on earth could I do, but add stress to the situation? I could go over there and warn them that someone might call the police on them and that I didn’t want them to be subject to that, because I wanted them to survive this night, but I knew that no one would hear me. No one could hear anybody over there. The cacophony of angry human voices was incredible. It seemed to go on forever.

I thought to myself, I wish I knew who to call. I wish there were someone safe to call. Someone who could help support them in this moment, make sure the kids were okay, help deescalate the situation and make sure nobody got hurt – or, well, more hurt than they already were, treating everyone with respect the whole time. Mobile mediators for angry intoxicated people. I imagine that even now, most people in the United States think of the police that way. Most white people, that is, of a certain class level.

But there have been too many people who were killed by the police for calling for help. Too many people who were victims of crime being killed because the police thought they were suspects of crime. Too many people who called for the police’s help with a mentally ill, disabled, or distressed family member – someone they loved – only to have the police kill them.

That’ll solve the problem, won’t it? When in doubt, just kill the black person.

Too many, too many, too many. Their stories ran in front of my eyes. Their images. Their names.

I seemed to recall that there had been a workshop that went by too fast for me to catch on that very topic: “What to do instead of calling the police.” I wanted that knowledge so badly just then, transfixed as I was by the human drama playing out in the street below my windowpane.

The only thing I knew clearly was that if anybody called the police, everybody would be in more danger. Everybody on the street and spilling out of the house was black. I thought to myself: “Any of them could be killed by the police tonight.”

I do not pray, but I hoped desperately that they would find a way to calm themselves down before someone called the cops.

After a very, very, very long time, they did.

I was proud of my little neighborhood for having enough care for their lives to let them hurt each other rather than calling the police and putting them in greater danger of death.

For the love of black people, please don’t call the police on black people. Please do anything you can to avoid it. The police cannot be trusted to serve or protect us. They put us in greater danger.

If you are white, please help other white people understand this.

This link contains a list of resources regarding how to understand the function of the police and what to do instead of calling the police. It is provisional and incomplete and growing. If you have additional resources, please post them in the comments and send them to Aaron Jones, the curator of this resource, at the address he provides. If there’s a better resource for this, let me know and I will update this post accordingly.

Many thanks.


#AlfredOlango  #TawonBoyd #Terence Crutcher #Gregory Frazier



I Cannot Ignore the Pangs of My Own Conscience Without Harm to Myself (and Neither, I Think, Can You)

I’ve been thinking a lot about homelessness lately. Mostly, this is probably because I’ve been trying to respond to people’s needs with greater generosity. I’ve been trying to really see each person I encounter and to greet each one as I would a friend. I’ve been giving away more money and food, and receiving more hugs, more stories, more meaningful contact with people’s humanity. More grace.

When I allow myself to pay attention, to care, to feel, to share, I feel relieved from the exquisite pain of ignoring human suffering. It really hurts to look away, to walk away, to pretend I don’t see the need in front of me. The pain is visceral, physical – a tightening in my chest and in my throat, a clamping down of my heart. Dissociation from my own vitality. I cannot ignore the pangs of my own conscience without harm to myself (and neither, I think, can you).

When I do respond with attention, with presence, with care, my whole being feels relieved of that pain and dissonance. I am in contact. I am in congruence with my values. I am relating as a human being with a heart to a human being with a heart.

As I do so, I feel the next pain arising: the pain of insufficiency. Less horrible than ignoring the suffering, but more poignant, more tender, more full of feeling. I am alive and present with the truth. Even when I offer more and more, it is inevitably insufficient relative to the enormity of the problem. The insufficiency of my own offering breaks my heart, even as I am being thanked. I think to myself, you shouldn’t thank me for that; it is so little relative to what I am sure you need, my friend. 

This experience has led me to want more information about the enormity of the problem of homelessness. I want to understand what it would take to make systemic changes for the support and benefit of some of our most vulnerable kin. Getting more information won’t, in and of itself, solve the problem, but the problems won’t be solved if we remain ignorant. In the United States, we try to solve too many problems by ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away – or, worse, by criminalizing them.

Yes, let’s criminalize people for not having homes, let’s arrest people who have the audacity to sleep in public, let’s give fines to people who have no money. That’ll fix all of our problems, for sure. Ugh!

I was happy to hear that some homeless folks teamed up with the ACLU to sue the city that passed such entrapment laws and I hope that that movement will spread nationwide.

It is strange to grow up thinking that you live in a bastion of freedom and democracy, only to find that you actually live in a thinly-veiled police state.

We must actively look at what is happening so that we can more effectively advocate for changes to the systems that disempower, oppress, and dehumanize the precious beings we share this world with. Can we throw some dollars at the ACLU, while we’re at it? And give some homeless folks some $5s, $10s, $20s, $50s, or more, and some nourishing food?

Generosity feels really good. I swear. Try it. You might like it.

This is a great article (from about a year ago) giving detail on the state of homelessness in the United States today and how it got there and what we could do to eradicate it.

All the solutions exist. It is not an impossible problem to solve. The support just needs to be mobilized. That’s our cue.