“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” has emerged as a rallying cry as demonstrators against the killing of Michael Brown took to the streets from Ferguson, Missouri to across the nation. The images raise the question once again, “How do you respond to police who appear hell bent on doing bodily harm if there is the slightest impression of resistance?”
Making ‘police over-reaction’ a non-starter is challenging when events happen in the moment leaving plenty of room for misunderstandings and unforeseen circumstances. It is a reality in America that a young black people must consider their actions carefully when approached by law enforcement. The goal is not to behave n a manner that would trigger a harsh response.
A youth enrichment program called A Pocket Full of Hope in Tulsa, Oklahoma produced an “instructional video” advocating five easy steps to take if anyone should come under police scrutiny. In the video titled “Ride Along,” Tonya, a black teenaged girl takes a tour with a white Hispanic male police officer and learns what’s going on in his head as he encounters various scenarios on the streets.
It starts off with a humorous note, the officer jokingly asking, “Do you know how to treat a gunshot wound?” But gets serious quickly when the officer gets a complaint call that drug dealing was happening on a street corner. As the police arrive they witness something changes hands between the teens on the corner. The teens see the cops and a chase ensues. No shots are fired, but the teens are captured and cuffed.
It turns out that what the police witnessed was not a drug deal and the teens say they took off because of the way the cops were looking at them. Distrust all around is at the center of this exchange with the cops and the teens sharing their points of view. In the end, there was no violent confrontation, but their could have easily been one.
Dr. Lester Shaw, founder of A Pocket Full of Hope outlines five steps for teens who encounter the police.
- Be Calm, anxiety might serve to escalate the situation
- Be aware of your hands, no sudden moves, no physical misunderstands
- Be respectful, respect begets respect
- Know your rights, you do not have to consent to a search but probable cause might prompt one
- Know when to ask for helpConsider the fact that at the end of the day, a trained police officer also would like to go home safely, unharmed and without incident. It just so turns out that it is up to you not to set off their sense of self-preservation.
Will J. Wright is a news manager with NBC you can follow him on Twitter: @willjwright