Harassment of any kind is considered a violation of your rights. However, when police perpetrate it on Tennessee streets, it’s a scarier experience. It’s important to know your rights and how you can respond.
What is street harassment?
Street harassment occurs when a person accosts someone outside in public and instills fear and intimidation in him or her. Women are often the victims of such treatment. For example, a woman is walking down a public street and passes a construction zone when several construction workers whistle and catcall her.
Street harassment is largely unreported
Unfortunately, many people do not report street harassment because they believe it won’t be taken seriously or that law enforcement will deem it not worth investigating. Sometimes, the harassment comes directly from police officers, which makes victims even more reluctant to report it.
Many people of color face street harassment daily and are terrified of becoming another statistic. This is especially true for Black people who are largely marginalized by police, not only in Tennessee but all around the country. People who are LGBTQ also face a higher risk of street harassment by police.
What to do if harassed by police
If you are harassed by a police officer on the street, ask the officer for his or her name and badge number. If the police officer doesn’t give it, you may want to carefully observe these details while interacting with him or her. Make note of the officer on your phone. Walk away if you can.
You may want to record the incident with your smartphone. Criminal law gives you the right to do this, and the officer cannot seize or break your phone. Be silent, but verbally refuse to be searched if the officer demands it.
You have the right to file a complaint if a police officer has harassed you. Include as many details as you can recall.