OP-ED: Avoiding Police Confrontations. What Can Be Done?

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By Richard Wembe Johnson, Folsom Prison

The recent upsurge of questionable police killings around the country has made it abundantly clear that something must be done to protect our youth and others. Separately these incidences may appear to be random, yet collectively they speak to a systematic pattern of selective killings targeting minorities.

People are dying needlessly, regardless of how someone tries to spin the truth. For the victims who are people of color there can be no justification for the rash of killings by law enforcement officers, who allegedly in the context of duty have killed or harmed unarmed persons.

Unfortunately the reality is that we can’t physically stop each and every incident where our youth are being slaughtered under the auspices of the “serve and protect” motto. Yet, what we can do, and must do, is to give advice, especially to our youth, by warning them that these killings can befall them also if they allow disagreements to escalate into a violent encounter.

Regardless of our status in life, no one is beyond the potential of possible loss of their life at the hands of a law enforcement officer, especially if they decide to exert extreme force. This advice should first begin at home by telling our loved ones that at all times they should be fully cognizant of the dangers of the loss of life in all dealings with members of the police force regardless of the circumstance. We should tell our families to never try to be confrontational with police. We should emphasize that they comply with their instructions even if the officer is blatantly hostile and/or is disrespectful or is trying to provoke you into acting out. Be cool and cooperative during your encounter with the police.

Keep in mind that most often you can be perfectly within your rights, yet in the eyes of the law it matters not, especially if you end up losing your life defending your rights at the moment.

Sometimes we must choose the time and place to confront wrong and not allow our emotions to propel us into predicaments in which the outcome will clearly be against us. I think the most important rule of thumb is for us to always work from the premise of not breaking the law.

Quite naturally, for example, if you are driving, and, if it’s the officer’s objective to stop and harass you, then it’s unavoidable, yet, it doesn’t mean that you should accommodate them by fueling their errant behavior which will elevate the situation. Again, we must utilize every avenue and opportunity to inform, as well as to stay informed about how we must conduct ourselves to avoid threatening impasses in contact with the police. Not all police are out to create havoc or entice violent encounters, yet there are some whose sole purpose is to do exactly that while hiding behind their badges, these types are few but they do exist and must be avoided at all cost, whenever possible.

Our churches, schools, and community gatherings are also places in which we must reach and teach each other in the ways of avoidance survival. If we neglect to advise our own, who will? The future is ours if we choose to act on avoidance survival tactics the “each one can teach one” words of survival, rather than to continue to be casualties.

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