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Playing Cards with Cops

This past weekend, our country was treated to the latest episode in “Black & Blue”, the reality fright fest brought to us almost weekly by government law enforcement officers and unarmed citizens.

This most recent episode takes place in another American suburb – McKinney, Texas – located 30 miles north of Dallas. By the time you read this, we will have more information about the specific details of this incident.

Let’s just say that pool party didn’t turn out like this one..,

However, as we have re-learned over the past few years, the presence of facts does not necessarily bring clarity (Here’s the other version of the events that took place in McKinney on Friday, June 5th). The introduction of historical context and present statistics does not necessarily increase understanding. The visual documentation of the mistreatment of the weak does not necessarily lead to accountability for the strong.

We are getting to a point where we can guess the general plot line of these incidents even before the specific details are uncovered:

One or more young Black individuals enter a space outside of their home. One or more adult residents feel threatened by the presence/behavior of the youth and call 911 to request the intervention of local law enforcement personnel in removing the youth. The officer confronts the youth. Less-than-diplomatic words are exchanged. Voices are raised. The officer and the youth engage in a physical struggle. A firearm is drawn (sometimes discharged). The officer is placed on administrative leave. National cable news channels loop b-roll footage of this encounter while their contributors, guests, and pundits debate whether ‘race was the issue in this case.’ 

And so as this school year comes to a close, our young people enter their summer break with the way they entered their school year….with social media and TV news video of police guns pointed at unarmed young Black citizens.

Just as the first responsibility of any government is to provide safety and protection for its citizens, the first responsibility of any tribe/nation/people is to protect its children. This is a primary function of the adults in any society.

In the spirit of protecting and serving our youth, for the first installment of the 2015 Black Family Summer Reading Series, I’m recommending Justice While Black by veteran Georgia attorney Robin Shipp and Atlanta-based journalist Nick Chiles.

This book is appropriate for all ages…starting with whatever age the residents of your community begin referring to Black youth as men, women…or thugs. It is an easy-to-read, step-by-step guide for youth and parents/guardians. The book walks you through the most common encounters U.S. residents of African descent have with law enforcement officers, and it equips you with a toolkit of knowledge about what to do, what not to do, and what your rights are in these encounters.

Ideally, this book should be purchased and downloaded onto every young person’s phone. But if getting the young (or old) people in your community to read isn’t working…try playing cards.

A few of most important pieces of advice from Ms. Shipp & Mr. Childs, in playing card form:

SITUATION: YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED IN A POLICE CAR

“The most important thing any suspect must do in this situation can be summarized in four ways: Shut the hell up!”

SITUATION: YOU HAVE BEEN STOPPED WHILE DRIVING

“1) If the officer asks where you’re coming from, politely ask why you were stopped. 2) If the officer asks for your license & registration, get their permission to reach for them. 3) If the officer insists on searching your vehicle, remain silent while they are doing so.”

SITUATION: YOU HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO THE POLICE STATION & YOUR FAMILY HAS COME TO ASSIST YOU

“Resist the urge to explain to your family everything that happened – the police are likely recording every word you say to them.”

SITUATION: YOU HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED A PUBLIC DEFENDER WHO PRESENTS A PLEA OFFER TO YOU

“If your attorney is telling you that you will lose at trial…then you should be asking a lot of questions about why your counsel is so sure you will be convicted. Make sure his recommendation is not just a matter of convenience, a way to quickly get your case off his to-do list.”

SITUATION: YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS HAVE NOT BEEN TAUGHT WHAT TO DO WHEN A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER SHOWS UP AT YOUR HOUSE…NEXT TO YOUR CAR…OR AT YOUR POOL PARTY

“Young Black males must educate themselves as much as possible about search & seizure laws, probable cause, and all the other rules & regulations that control the actions of law enforcement.”

Be safe family.

– Day G.

Host, Class of Hope & Change

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