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Advice that can keep you safe during a police encounter

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Posted at 7:52 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 15:57:41-04

CLEVELAND — A New York University study found Black drivers are 20% more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers.

Harvard researchers discovered Black people are more than three times as likely to be killed during a police encounter.

It’s a conversation Black parents continue to have with their children, especially with their Black sons.

What do you do if you’re stopped by police?

News 5 talked to officers and the ACLU about your rights and the dos and dont's that can help keep you alive.

Kim Harris is a mother of three sons and she wants to make sure they’re educated about what to do if stopped by an officer.

“It weighs heavily on parents,” said Harris.

It’s one of the reasons she created “Shaker African American Mother Support” or “SAMS.”

The group also works to bridge local police and black residents.

“Traffic stops are dangerous for a police officer. It's one of the most dangerous encounters that we have,” said Officer Vincent Montague, President of The Black Shield Police Association.

Montague says traffic stops are highly stressful for officers too.

He also takes educating the general public, especially African Americans, very seriously when it comes to how to respond if stopped.

“My advice is just listen. If your license is suspended, it's OK. You don't have to you don't have to run. If you have a warrant, it's OK,” said Montague.

ACLU of Ohio organizing strategist Melekte Melaku offered some advice.

“Stay calm. You want to leave that encounter alive," Melaku said.

In addition to staying calm, Melaku and Montague offered a few more suggestions:

  • Don't make any sudden movements.
  • Keep your hands visible, like on the steering wheel.
  • You have the right to record the stop.
  • You can also request the reason why you’re being stopped, as well as the officer’s name and badge number.
  • Make sure to alert officers right away, if you have a Concealed Carry license, especially if you have a weapon on you, or in your vehicle.
  • It’s also recommended to slow down and drive to a well-lit or busy area.

“I would call the dispatcher. I'm trying to pull to a well-lit area and a dispatcher can at least let the officer know that you're not dangerous and let them know what you're trying to do,” said Montague.

The most important piece of advice both the ACLU and Montague gave is to comply with an officer’s commands, even if you feel your rights have been violated or you’ve been disrespected.

Melaku recommends, “if the conversation or encounter continues to escalate, I would mention that you're exercising your right to remain silent.”

“If you don't agree with the stop, you don't have to deal with it right then and there. It's OK to go to court and argue your case in court,” said Montague.

If you feel like your rights were violated during a police encounter, most departments have a method to file a formal complaint.

For instance, Cleveland Police has an Office of Professional Standards, that investigates those complaints.