In light of recent officer-involved shootings involving unarmed black men, people who attended a community forum on Saturday asked police, prosecutors and public defenders about the best ways to interact with law enforcement during an encounter.
Some of the advice they received included knowing your rights beforehand, showing officers respect and investigating what recourse is available for officers who violate your civil rights.
Here’s some of what the panelists said:
Mecklenburg County Public Defender Kevin Tully
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▪ If an officer stops you on the street, you might have the right to keep walking but “that’s not going to de-escalate...or diffuse the situation,” Tully said.
▪ Always show your hands. “I’ve heard a lot lately that that’s not enough, but it does help,” he said.
▪ If an officer tells you to get on the ground, you might have the right not to obey, Tully said. But, again, that’s only going to escalate the tension. Getting on the ground upon initial request might help avoid a situation where you’re slammed on the ground.
▪ “Knowing your rights (before an encounter) is better than enforcing your rights in the moment,” he said.
▪ You also have the right to film the police. The exception, Tully said, is when your filming interferes with police business. His advice: Do it from a distance.
C. Renee Jarrett, hearing officer at Mecklenburg County Clerk of Court
▪ To children: If you’re arrested, there’s nothing wrong with requesting to call your mother or father before speaking with police.
▪ To parents: Teach children not to disrespect authorities. For instance, it’s never OK to cuss out an adult, she said.
CMPD Major Sherie Pearsall
Pearsall, mother to a teenage son, said she too is concerned about his interactions with law enforcement. She often instructs him not to show police officers disrespect. On the same token, she won’t tolerate officers disrespecting him.
In case an officer does treat her son incorrectly, she tells him there is a recourse – such as reporting the incident to the department’s professional standards division.
“Just come home and we’ll deal with it later,” she tells him. “If you feel like your rights were violated, we’re not going to seek remedy on the streets.”