TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In George Floyd’s final moments, witnesses stood by helplessly pleading with police officers to stop. 8 On Your Side Investigates is breaking down the role and rights of onlookers witnessing police brutality.
In the dramatic cell phone video, you could hear bystanders talk to George Floyd.
“Bro, get up,” said one bystander.
The strangers also directly address Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
“His nose is bleeding, like come on now,” said a woman on scene.
As the minutes tick on, the bystanders desperately tried to convince other police officers to intervene.
“It’s a very delicate situation,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
8 On Your Side is investigating the rights and role of onlookers. What should you do if you witness police brutality?
“People are now questioning if they were to see the same thing again, what should they do,” said Chief Dugan.
Chief Dugan says it’s difficult for bystanders to quickly make sense of what they’re seeing.
“I would caution people to get involved with officers who are making arrests,” said Chief Dugan.
“Things … aren’t what they always appear.”
Legally, you can record police officers in public. That’s evidence for the future.
In the moment, you can also call dispatch or 911 in an emergency and ask for the officer’s supervisor.
“But they need to take caution with how they approach that situation,” said Chief Dugan.
“If the officer is telling them, ‘back off,’ they need to back off. That’s when they potentially request for a supervisor to respond, video it.”
8 On Your Side also spoke with Attorney Adrian Mendiondo, the head of Morgan & Morgan’s Civil Rights practice.
“You want to record it, that’s the thing that holds people accountable eventually,” said Mendiondo.
Mendiondo says when your goal is to de-escalate, keep your tone deferential with all officers.
“Very calmly, very differential, appeal to officer’s sense of judgment and ask them to stop,” said Mendiondo.
In Floyd’s final moments, multiple witnesses tried to get him help.
“Is there anything more that the bystanders could have done in that case?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“I don’t think they could and I think that is probably why people are so outraged,” said Chief Dugan.
You always want to keep your distance and never touch an officer conducting an arrest.
If you’re not cautious, you could get hurt or even face charges.