*With anticipation building across the nation over the imminent decision by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury to indict or not indict a white police officer, Darren Wilson, for the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, tensions between the African American community and police are reaching a fever point.
But the relationship between the black community and police forces across the country have always ben contentious for the most part and black folk almost ALWAYS come out on the losing end of the proverbial nightstick. However, in an EURweb special report, Atlanta based writer Angela P. Moore-Thorpe speaks with noted experts on how you can avoid being a victim of police brutality.
A common pattern with Black males and police brutality is taking place across the United States. Sean Bell, Anthony Baez, Oscar Grant, Noel Polanco, Ramarley Graham, Jordan Baker, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown, were all unarmed and are just a handful of dozens of Americans whose life was ended by police. White males who were not in police enforcement also took Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis’ life.
These tragedies and injustice have left many people across the U.S. and abroad asking the same questions over- and-over again. Why are so many Black men and people of color being targeted or gunned down by police officers? Why are police not held accountable for shooting unarmed citizens? Are the police officers hired to protect citizens or to kill them?
Attorney Tanya Mitchell Graham of Atlanta, offered tips while others on Social Media expressed dissatisfaction. Graham has practiced Entertainment Law and Family Law for over 22 years and offers advice.
“I believe the whole world sees a pattern with African-American people and the police. Look at the example of Oriana Ferrell, the mother who was riding with her children in a minivan in New Mexico, and the police shot at her. Someone could have been killed. There seems to be a resurgence of these incidents. We need to address why, and we need new laws to address police offers that abuse their authority and act over-aggressively,” says Graham.
Some say it has been happening all along, and the media is just covering the stories more often than they use to. However, many argue that police brutality against people of color is increasing. Then you have some who say why should Blacks be so concerned with police brutality when the Black-on-Black crime is higher than police brutality.
EURweb caught up with Graham and retired LAPD Police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey to get their take on the issue. They offer two different perspectives and approaches to handling the police.
“Both of my daughters are asking me why do unarmed African-American male teens keep getting shot and killed. Trayon Martin, Jordan Davis, Mike Brown… They are extremely troubled and agitated about this. One time is an anomaly. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern. How can the person with the gun feel so afraid/threatened/need to stand their ground that they can kill someone with no gun? Which police do you trust? How can their friends be safe? Will African-American teenage girls be shot and killed, too? The answers aren’t always easy… These are difficult times, with difficult days ahead,” says Graham.
In a recent interview with Tanya Mitchell Graham, she offers advice…
What rights do citizens have when the police stop them?
You have the right to remain silent always. If you wish to exercise that right, tell the police out loud that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home. A warrant is needed. Otherwise, the search is unlawful.
If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave. You cannot be detained unlawfully.
If you are arrested, you have the right to know why. Ask the police why you are being arrested calmly out loud.
You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately. It is not advisable to make statements without a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask for a lawyer to be appointed (this is asking for a Public Defender).
With your rights come responsibilities. Stay calm and be polite. Do not interfere with or obstruct the police during an investigation of a potential crime. Never lie, or give a false name or provide false documents. Immediately inform your family if you are arrested.
Try to remember the details of your encounter with the police, and write it down or type the details as soon as you can. Do not give the police a written statement without your lawyer’s advice.
If you believe your rights have been violated, contact a civil rights lawyer or organization for assistance.
I am heartbroken over & over again when I see our men being abused and killed. How do you feel when you see Blacks being abused and killed by Police?
I am heartbroken as well. My oldest daughter asked me why this keeps happening and the police officers get away with it. My youngest daughter is actually afraid of the police. That is horrible. The police are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot and murder at will. Laws need to change to help prosecute those who shoot and kill unarmed individuals.
What would you like done regarding the cops killing Black males?
I think we need to draft new bills to present to the legislatures in every state about the prosecution of officers who shoot and kill unarmed individuals. I also think that jury instructions need to be made clearer in every state so that people like George Zimmerman do not walk free.
You listed 11 tips on Facebook, Is there any additional advice you would you like to add to the list?
I think my 11 “Facebook” tips are still good. Of course, I expounded upon FB tips 3, 8, and 9 above in question 2. I just want to stress how important it is to research the candidates for these mid-term elections for Congress as well as the local candidates. Then VOTE! We cannot wait until there is an incident to find out how our elected officials will work on behalf of the citizens who elected them. Not voting is so irresponsible. Our vote in the upcoming elections is critical. Local elections are just as important as national elections. We should make every effort to register and vote. Every time.
The 11th tip stated that we all have a responsibility to bring about change. Can you expound?
Each of us has a responsibility as a citizen. We each have a responsibility to bring about change in society when there is something wrong on various levels. Whether you are a community leader, an advocate for justice, or just a regular citizen trying to support your family and raise your children. For some, that responsibility is to vote every election, set examples for your children, teach them right from wrong, and how to address injustices. Attend community meetings. We still march and have rallies. Speak up when something is not right. For others, you may be a leader in your community. Local leaders should organize a meeting, a rally, a march, and have a plan. Further, those with particular leadership skills, they can draft bills to present to the lawmakers in our communities and States to make new laws to address these issues. Local politicians have to do a better job of representing all of their constituents. We simply cannot passively exist and do nothing. Everyone can do something on some level.
You have two beautiful daughters in college, and I know you had a serious conversation with them before they left for college. Do you mind sharing the conversation that you had with them? What advice did you give them?
I gave them the advice that I posted on Facebook. Also, it is an ongoing conversation as issues arise. We discuss everything, and I welcome questions always. I do not have all of the answers, often; young people have a fresh new perspective of how to address issues, which I welcome. They are so creative. I just spoke this week to one of my daughters about an issue on her campus, and I told her that if a number of students have the same issue, then perhaps they should draft a letter or petition to the administration asking for change, and get as many students as possible to sign it. Then request a meeting to discuss the issues to address their problems. Set deadline to accomplish each issue. Don’t just sit and complain. Do something, but always remember that there is strength in numbers. If a majority of students feels the same way, now you have power. Tuition pays everyone’s salaries. Students do have power to bring about change just like citizens have power when we come together.
Can you tell me about the legislation you mentioned or plan to implement? Tell me about your plans and how others can help make that happen….
I am talking to some other lawyers that I went to law school with about drafting a bill pertaining to police shooting unarmed citizens. I hope to work with some other lawyers to come up with a comprehensive bill to present. I am also very concerned about jury instructions and how confusing they are to citizens. I think confusing jury instructions and unanswered questions led to the George Zimmerman acquittal. So, that is something I am beginning to work on now as well.
What can we (Blacks) do to protect ourselves against Police Brutality?
Know your rights and responsibilities as a citizen as I mentioned above. Do not run from police. It is difficult to convey how to protect yourself when someone like Michael Brown reportedly had his hands up, and he was shot and killed anyway. I would add that when confronted by police, in addition to putting your hands up, be still, and be quiet – you have the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Let the police know you are exercising that right when questioned. It seems like walking towards police or talking to the police legitimizes the so-called subjective “fear” of the shooter.
Some say we do not have the right to get upset at police when we have a high rate of Black- on-Black crime in our own community… How do you feel about this? Does one even have anything to do with the other?
We do have the right to be upset about police brutality. It is wrong. We also should be upset about “Black-on-Black” crime, but also the reasons for it. There is a hopelessness in some of our communities that is the underlying cause for some of the crime. That is a large issue dealing with societal ills such as the education system and the economy, which breeds many of the problems. More money is spent on prisons than education. That is a major problem that needs to be addressed. College education is very expensive and out of reach for many because of the middle class gap. There are lots of issues to be addressed. I do not believe police brutality has anything to do with “Black-on-Black” crime. No police officer (or community advocate) should shoot an unarmed person.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Yes. Each of us has the independent ability to control our own destiny. We have to set goals for ourselves and make good decisions. Once we achieve a goal, we should set new goals. As we achieve and do well, we have a responsibility to volunteer and serve others. We have a responsibility to be productive citizens in our communities. When we are called to lead, we should do so. When wrongs need to be addressed, we should do what we can to make a difference. We all have a purpose. It is up to us to figure out what that is, and to fulfill it. The apparent epidemic of police brutality is not new, but there is a reason for this resurgence, and we must address it. Each of us in our own way can address this issue and others, whether we do so by simply researching the candidates and voting in every election, peacefully assembling to draw attention to the change that is needed, or even running for public office and serving the community. We each have a responsibility to do more than to just passively exist.
Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make a difference!
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts as a concerned citizen.
Part 2 Coming Soon… Hear what Retired Police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey has to say about Police Brutality….
Graham’s 11 Tips for Concerned Citizens
1. Pray without ceasing.
2. Research all candidates and vote in every election, local and national.
3. Know your rights as a citizen.
4. Learn the law about unlawful searches and seizures.
5. Learn self-defense.
6. You have the right to bear arms.
7. Volunteer, organize, make a difference in your community now – you’re never too young or too old. A movement or revolution seems likely. The heat of these situations is sweltering.
8. Know what to do (and what not to do) when confronted by police.
9. You have the right to remain silent.
10. You have the right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate, but not to riot and loot.
11. You cannot passively exist. You have a responsibility to bring about change.