Information for Families Who Have Experienced Police Violence (from our Family to Yours)
- Don’t talk to the police. They are likely to use any information you give them to build a case AGAINST your Loved One. After all, all the police-involved deaths in Washington and Oregon have been found justified by District Attorneys and grand juries. The police will need to prove to the public, using the media, that your Loved One needed to be killed. That’s why we also say:
- Don’t talk to the media. They get their “scoops” from police. If they don’t report what the police want them to, they won’t be able to break stories. In other words, they have a vested interest in demonizing your Loved One. If they don’t have a police record, they’ll find a photo on social media that portrays them in a poor light.
Do talk to the media. If you’re ready to make it your job to negotiate information as currency to get what you want. Get to know news people and reporters personally. Have family members write letters to publications at different times to influence what they print in letters to the editors. Watch-dog everything and correct erroneous information. Counter any negative press by speaking out using key words repetitively so they can’t edit a sound bite without a pertinent point being made. Use the local liberal paper to rouse the interest of the larger, more conservative paper. Go on radio and do interviews.
- Track the “Chain of Evidence” because the police won’t do it. Call the police auditor and ask for a police liaison to handle your requests and calls directly. When police kill or injure a community member, no one is going to investigate this as a criminal case. PNWFC Family Members have experienced that police don’t take fingerprints; police have moved or planted evidence; and they lose evidence, like reports or “malfunctions” in the audio and video of their body and vehicle cameras. It’s up to you to ask for reports. Call everyday until you get a police liaison, then call everyday until you get what’s available.
Interview and record any neighbors or witnesses yourself, being sure to get a close to exact timeline. (One of our Family Members got pictures of neighbors texts to each other about the shooting). Memories fade and change with time and media coverage. Ask them for videos if they have them.
- Don’t listen to the negative attacks/comments of your family and friends. No matter what you or your Loved One did or did not do, your Loved One did not need to be killed by police. Every year, police in the US kill more people in a few months than many other countries’ police kill in years, even when those people have guns and knives in their hands.
Friends and family who are blaming you or your Loved One just don’t understand the lack of transparency or accountability in the U.S. justice system. We suggest sharing this report with them, so they can better understand the systemic nature of police violence:
Final report: Families and justice in cases of death after police contact in the United States: This final report presents the final findings of the research project for which Family Member and PNWFC Founder Irene Kalonji was interviewed. Download the pdf or read the entire report online to learn more about the experiences of Families navigating the “justice” system after losing their Loved Ones to police violence.
- Don’t get a wrongful death attorney. You need a civil rights attorney. You have 2 years after your Loved One has been killed or harmed by police to bring a criminal suit against the police and 3 years for a federal civil case.
- Demand an independent autopsy is performed or pay for one yourself.
- If you can’t afford to pay for justice-related items, crowdfund with the help of numerous police accountability activist and advocacy organizations. Contact Irene Kalonji, Founder and Maria Cahill, Organizer of Pacific Northwest Family Circle at pnwfamilycircle at gmail dot com to get connected.
- Talk to other Family Members for their experience that might be specific to your Loved One’s case. Email us at pnwfamilycircle at gmail dot com and we’ll connect you by phone, email or facebook with at least one PNWFC Family Member.
- Whenever you’re ready to join us, we’re ready to welcome you to this terrible club that no one wants to be in. If you live in the states of Oregon or Washington or have a Loved One killed or injured by police in Oregon or Washington; and you have experienced police violence personally or are related to someone who has; then declare your desire to be a PNWFC Family Member to struggle strategically with other Families who’ve experienced police violence. Email us at pnwfamilycircle at gmail dot com and let us know that you’d like us to recognize your Loved One as a PNWFC Loved One and that we can share their image (of your choosing) and stories (of your choosing) at our protests, community education events, speeches, and socials. Once you authorize us to speak on behalf of your Loved One, you’re officially a PNWFC Family Member. We understand that your level of involvement might vary from never being in touch to being active regularly with us or with other groups and that your ability to commit will likely vary based on what’s going on in your life and your grief process at the time. We are here to support your justice struggle, so do it all on your own timeline and in your own way.