When NWA wrote “F*ck the Police” in the late 1980s, they were heavily criticized. At the time, the police brutality that they spoke of was a racial boogeyman that remained hidden due to the high cost of home video cameras. Rodney Kingchanged all that, and it let America know that the relationship between Black men and the police usually left us at the short end of the baton.
I am not an attorney. I am just a scholar and a Black man who cares about what happens when my brothers interact with that peculiar street gang otherwise known as the police. Sometimes, the cops are here to protect us, but other time, they are here to protect everyone else from us.
Therefore, interacting with police in a way that keeps us from losing our lives is absolutely critical.
Please note that this is not a substitute for legal advice. I recommend that you speak to an attorney to get a more complete understanding of how to handle situations like this one. But my Facebook friends, some of whom have solid legal backgrounds, helped me to compile this list of things you should keep in mind when dealing with the police. Think about these issues carefully, for it might save your life:
1) Be respectful, don’t speak first, and don’t speak with hostility: Getting smart with the cops doesn’t make things better. For at least a short period of time, they have all the power, and you have none. Settle your beef later on, when it’s safe. Also, you’re probably better off not volunteering any information, since many questions are designed to trap you into giving yourself up.
2) Learn your rights: Read short guides on what you should do if you encounter a police officer. Videos such as this one below can be helpful in showing you what you need to do.
3) Don’t make any sudden moves and keep your hands on the steering wheel: Being a Black man already makes you suspicious in the eyes of some police officers. Don’t give them anymore reasons to get out of line.
4) Ask for permission before you grab or reach for anything: Officers are afraid just like you are. Any unexpected grabs may set him/her off and make the officer believe that they are in danger.
5) Keep a valid photo ID on you: If you have a driver’s license, keep it with you. If not, then keep your student ID or something that allows the officer to know who you are.