The supposed “guardian angels” of our cities can often get out of hand, both physically and psychologically, with individuals uninformed of their rights. A right everyone, including Emporia State students, should know about is their right to combat police misconduct with a simple video camera.
Rodney King is probably the only name in America that can summon the nightmare of police brutality across racial, class and religious lines. In April 1992, King was beaten by four uniformed officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, and one of his only recourse was a video of the merciless beating.
Although Emporia is a town that doesn’t face a heavy police presence, ESU students like me are harassed by police more often than we would like to talk about. I have faced only two routine traffic checkpoints and one stop in 20 years outside of Kansas, and within two weeks of living in Emporia, I was involved in a pretty traumatic experience with the very men and women trusted with the task of protecting my rights.
As an African-American man, I have discussed in my ethnic and gender studies class how individuals from minority communities trained me to expect to have problems with the police who will often assume I am a criminal and how I need to orient myself in the situation to not provoke more than minimal violence.
My welcome party to Emporia went from a routine stop to three police cars on the highway surrounding four college students being harassed by agents of the state. I’m eternally grateful that the situation didn’t escalate further than it did, but as a college student I have very few tools to protect myself from police violence. However, learning to provide victims of brutality with the kindness of a stranger is important.
Being willing to be a witness and video tape my struggle to ensure community safety is something that can help students here at ESU get into the practice of holding their police departments accountable. Even if you are safe, remember that a video can help make the rest of your ESU community safer.