Mar 19, 2012

Should you report what you've witnessed to the police?

You and your girlfriend witness a fight one evening on the way home from the movies and recognize one of the fighters as your best friend’s son. You are horrified and surprised to see what is going on. The attacker is kicking and hitting the victim who is trying to squirm his way to safety holding his arms over his head to shield it. You know immediately that you have a dilemma. The mother of the boy is your best friend. You know the boy personally as he has done little errands for you and has always been willing to help with little chores. How did she not know this side of him and what is she going to do? Is she going to report it? Her girlfriend has already run off to get to the house and to dial 911. You wonder whether you should keep quiet about witnessing the fight and say nothing at all, or do the right thing and go to the police and say who he is and where he lives.

Covering up

Answering this question is easier said than done. You did not ask for the situation. You have come upon the scene unexpectedly and seen something you should not have seen and whichever way you turn it will not be an easy decision to make. Still, bad as it may seem, the truth is always best. You cannot withhold important information from the police. Your friend’s son may quite possibly be a nasty bit of work and beat up on people if he is not stopped. His behavior should be investigated in that case.

Loyalties and conscience

If this is his first run-in with the law it will be good for him to have a wake-up call and see what it is like to be overnight in a prison. To keep quiet about the situation and not name the perpetrator, will also send the wrong message and mother and son won’t benefit anyway from the lie. There is also the price one has to pay for harboring a fugitive or aiding and abetting a person who should pay the price for his crimes and misdemeanors. It could be your child who was attacked. What kind of justice would you want? You would want the punishment to fit the crime. Hard as it may be for the other family, you have to tell the truth. Your friend may never speak to you again for reporting the details of the crime to the police, but you would have done a service to the community – that you don’t tolerate bullies and will not be drawn into a lie. If your friend does not understand your predicament it may be time to examine whether the friendship is worth having.