How to Survive an Encounter with the Police as a Young Black Person, Part 2 (The Man in the Mirror #4)


In our last episode, we talked about the importance of responding the right way to situations when you are confronted by the police or others in authority. You may feel like you are being profiled or that the only reason you are being stopped or questioned is because of the color of your skin or because of the neighborhood you happen to be in.

miami-policeChristian rapper, Lecrae, shared that he had just left a concert in Chicago recently, and he was in a car with several other people. As they were driving through a certain neighborhood, the man who was driving the car said, ‘The police are probably going to pull us because there are a lot of us in here.’ “Us” meaning black and latino young men in the same car. And, sure enough, a few minutes later, they were pulled by the police. So, these kinds of cases are real, and they happen frequently across America.

However, as you will recall from our last episode, I encouraged you to purposefully have a calm, respectful attitude if and when you are confronted by the police. If you do that, it may not seem like much, but you will be making it better not only for yourself, but for other young black men and women in America. This past weekend, we unfortunately heard the tragic news that a man — a young black man — who claimed to be getting revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner shot and killed two New York City police officers who were sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn, NY. Such a heinous crime will only serve to deepen the distrust and hostility between police forces and black communities across America. That young black man, who also took his own life, made it worse for everyone. He carried his anger against and/or hatred for the police to an extreme, and that is what I do not want you to do no matter how wrong you feel the police may be.

Right now, I am going to continue sharing with you how you can survive an encounter with the police. Remember, the purpose here is for you to remain alive and free as a young black person in America. In our last episode, we discussed what to do if you are stopped while driving or walking on the street. Today, we are going to go over some do’s and don’ts regarding dealing with the police. These tips are from the National Black Police Association. They state:

– Keep your hands where the police can see them

– Please…do not run!

– Do not touch any police officer.

– Do not resist – even if you believe you are innocent.

– Do not complain too strongly on the scene or tell the police they’re wrong or that you’re going to file a complaint.

– Ask for a lawyer immediately when arrested.

– Record officers’ badge numbers and patrol car numbers and write down everything you remember – as soon as possible.

– Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers

Now, there are many factors that may lead the police to approach and/or detain you. Every situation is different and the officer may consider one or more of the following factors. Knowing this will help you see things from the police officer’s perspective no matter how innocent you think you are.

– You are near a location where a crime has been recently reported or discovered.

– You may be – knowingly or unknowingly – a witness to a criminal event or a potential criminal target.

– You are hanging around with people or at locations that are being monitored by the police to prevent crimes.

– You are acting in a manner which appears to be suspicious or potentially criminal; or the police believe you may be in possession of stolen property, contraband, or weapons.

– When walking or driving your car, you refuse to answer police questions and/or give false, evasive, or contradictory information; or you are combative and use derogatory or offensive language when approached. Your reaction may be perceived as suspicious or threatening. Saying the wrong things at the wrong time could lead to further police detainment, questions, increased stress or a trip to jail. Who needs this?

– You have been identified to the police by someone else or you fit the description of a criminal actor.

Remember, police must be able to articulate to the court’s satisfaction what “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” was used to stop, detain, and arrest a citizen.

We will continue with more tips on how to survive an encounter with the police in our next episode.

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