Straight From a Cop’s Mouth: 10 Tips for Young Black Men Dealing with Police

August 13, 2014  |  

I’m gonna be honest here, when I found out I was having a boy, my heart sank a little. It’s not that my husband and I didn’t want a boy – in fact we were thrilled to have our first child be a boy so he could assume the role of an older brother, something my guy enjoyed growing up in a home with sisters. Yet I couldn’t help but think about all of the “what if” scenarios that come with raising a young black man. What if he is one of the only children of color among his friends? What if the cops stop him because he fits a certain profile? As much as I will try my best to protect him from the evils of life, you just can’t stop every bad thing from occurring. My own husband has been pulled over a couple of times by our local police and he wears a polo and Dickies for heaven’s sake! Granted, it can happen to anyone, I can’t help but think about those routine situations that turn for the worst when people are caught off guard.

Thankfully, I am the daughter of a now-retired police sergeant who can not only give me advice on how to be a good parent, but the skinny from a cop’s perspective on how his grandson can handle run-ins with the police. Obviously, home training will come into play as some do bring it on themselves, but I am talking about those times when a young man did nothing wrong.

10 Tips and Takeaways for Dealing with Police

  • Limit your contact. Whether you were stopped because you were at fault or not, get in and get out. The more contact a police officer has with you, the more time they have to find something.
  • Watch what you say. “First and foremost, you cannot let it become confrontational,” notes my father. Why argue? Cops also write down what you say. “Oh yeah, I have used the ignorant things people have said to me in court.”
  • Be respectful. “Yes sir, no ma’am” – home training and respect can get you far. Try to make the situation as comfortable as possible. “You start off nice, you don’t start off ignorant.”
  • SHUT UP! If you are driving with others in the car, tell them to shut up as their mouth can get everyone in trouble. “Now you allow me access to everybody,” my dad notes.
  • Don’t make it personal. Simply put, let the cop do his/her job and be cooperative. In the words of Denzel in Training Day, “you wanna go to jail or you wanna go home?”
  • Police officers are human. “If you hit me with ‘what the f#$k you stopping me for,’ I’m not gonna be so nice,” says my dad. Don’t yell or scream because it doesn’t help – cops are people too and can get their feathers ruffled. No one likes being cussed out.
  • They can search your car. If you think that popping off at the mouth to a cop about not having a warrant will make the situation better, think again buddy. “A police officer can do searches if they have reasonable suspicion,” reveals my dad. Forget what you saw on television folks as the threshold for a warrantless search is less on a car than a home. Probable cause is determined by the officer so why piss them off?
  • Trying to YouTube the situation might not be best. “If you’re gonna do it, don’t be so obvious or act in a way that antagonizes the cop,” recommends my father. Having your own evidence of what transpired can definitely help down the road, but please practice some tact.
  • You can ask for back up. Don’t be afraid to ask for another police officer present as it can at times work in your favor. “Not all cops lie for each other,” my dad says and even adds that many are not willing to take the fall for an officer who is not acting professional.
  • Deal with the ramifications later. “If it was a bulls*&t stop where you cooperated and were still arrested, now you have recourse like contacting IAD (Internal Affairs Department)” notes my father. “You will never win a battle with police on the side of the road so get out of the situation safely and deal with the ramifications later.” Tip: Jot down the squad car number as some cops don’t always wear their badge. Gather up as much information that you can use later.

Have you or someone you know been stopped by the police for no apparent reason? What did you or they do?

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