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Lawyers Teach San Diego Students What To Do If Stopped By Police

Lawyers Teach San Diego Students What To Do If Stopped By Police
Lawyers Teach San Diego Students What To Do If Stopped By Police
Lawyers Teach San Diego Students What To Do If Stopped By Police GUESTS: Marne Foster, president, San Diego Unified School Board Dennis Dawson, attorney/president, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association

This is KPBS Midday Edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. What if you are just driving around in San Diego doing nothing wrong and you are stopped by police? Achor young men of color you might think you've been profiled and that might make you angry. Or the officer might ask you to do something you don't want to do like it out of your car. As we've all seen in recent months, they can just take a few seconds for simple encounter with police to turn tragically wrong. A group of attorneys in San Diego don't want to wait for the next tragedy. They are holding workshops to teach people how to stay safe after being stopped by police. Joining me ourattorney Dennis Dawson, President of the Earl B. Gilliam our association and Dennis will, welcome to the program. Thank you. And money fosters her, board President of the San Diego unified school board district. Welcome. Thank you. The -- represents the interests of African-Americans in the San Diego legal community. What need to see you and our communities that prompted you to start this series of workshops? In light of the epidemic of killings involving police officer cost, sites across the country we decided to be proactive early on and we cannot and will not be located to simply complaining about the next homicide. Therefore what we decided to do was to partner with the San Diego unified school district and with the legal aid Society of San Diego to present a series of workshops on what to do if you are stopped by the police. The workshops have two basic components Let me stop you there for many because you completed workshop at Morris high school, you have another this afternoon at Crawford High and if you could get tell us what are you teaching high school students? Basically there are two different components. One is the safety component. We want the students to protect the personal safety in their interactions with police officers at all times. And with that means is that we want them to first well if they are stopped by the police to be called. We want them unequivocally to respect that officers authority. But at the same time we want them to make sure that they don't make any effort to movements meaning those movements which might be secretive or designed to conceal something. So we are telling the students at Morris and we will tell them at Lincoln and that Crawford that if you are stopped while driving, you should pullover as soon as it safely to do so, put your hands on the steering will, rolled the window down so that the officer could talk to you and you can hear what he is saying. Don't make those for took movements like lowering your shoulder or reaching across the car or reaching into the glove compartment because quite naturally the officer might think that he is being endangered by that type of a movement. We also would tell them to tell their passengers to be calm and to remain silent. If they are stopped at night, turn the dome light on in the course of the officer can see that there is nothing suspicious that would endanger his safety and the vehicle. Those are some examples of the safety component. What's the other component? The other component is legal rights part of the presentation. For example, we would be telling students keep quiet. Don't make any admission. Don't make any statement because the officer could use that against you and it could be used to our detriment in a court of law if your cited for illegal violation. We also would tell the students to make sure that they would if asked to consent to a body search, tell the officer know, I respectfully do not consent to the search. If they are asked to consent to a search of the vehicle, tell the officer know. I respectfully do not consent to this. At some point we would ask -- tell the students as well ask the officer am I under arrest? Am I being detained? Am I free to leave? Because if the officer doesn't have probable cause to arrest you, or some reasonable grounds to continue to interrogate you, you should be allowed to leave. Let me ask you to form and Dennis approached you about this idea, what did you make of it? I have to say that San Diego unified is well aware of the disproportionate criminalization and prosecution of students of color particularly African-American and Latino youth and males in particular. So we really welcome back because that's part of the work that we are doing in San Diego unified. An example would be when one in terms of us of behaviors and interactions and what to do when, if, when students don't know how to read or write or don't understand concepts we teach, but when we talk about behavior, there's a pause. Swan San Diego unified we want to and we are working to become a restorative district. So that means looking at behaviors that might be harmful and looking at those who have been harmed and then working together in terms of pure mediation, collaboration with our internal San Diego unified school police department with counselors, with mentors, with community members having this restorative circle and dialogue about what is going on in school and in the community like what Mr. Dawson mention about what the climate is like right now. So students have a voice, students are brilliant and they are coming up with even their own solutions. They are there really survivors and so it is very important that we inform students on what to do if, when, how. What kind of reaction are you getting? We are getting a very intense reaction from the students. They are very, very engaged and they have thanked us profusely after we get the first one at Morse. One of the things that we are going to continue to bring out to the students is that if you were stopped by the police and you feel that the police violated your rights that you should once you get home, talk to your parents about it. If you are injured, seek immediate medical assistance. Perhaps sit down that same evening and write out a personal statement as to facts, the officer, his badge number, the car number, just what happened, were there witnesses. Everything because we are warning the students at Morse that you won't remember this even a month after the incident as much is you remember it that same night. We are also going to tell students that if you feel that you're rights were violated and you suffer damages, you should consider filing a complaint with the police review board. We know that that review board doesn't have the authority to make decisions independent of the police, but what it can do is it can commence an investigation and if you ask for damages, you will be referred over to the risk management Department so that he would have been deemed to have filed a complaint. Are you advising students to or not to videotape an encounter with the police? FAR the subject of a traffic stop? I think the videotape is always quite valuable and it is interesting because I see no some women Chile however has -- which relates to the video camera that is worn on the body of the officer. But just look at the incident that occurred in South Carolina where a man who was what you from the police, an African-American man was shot at eight times and hit five times and died as a result. If they hadnot been up passenger by who videotape that you're not sure that the officer statement would have -- what really happened. If the student is stopped and he has that sulfone, I think it is great idea to record as much is possible of the incident. Dennis, you referenced the fact that we are all aware of the tragic confiscations that have been in the headlines this summer Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities, and you think that the techniques that you are take -- teaching in these workshops would have stopped any of those tragedies? I cannot predict that. But I do know that we are doing the most that we possibly can. If we are educating people, students, African-American students especially, because we are the ones were getting shot. If we educate them in advance as much is possible I think we would have done as much is we possibly could. We cannot guarantee the results, but those students would at least be forewarned but the techniques that could be used to maximize their chances of leaving that encounter safely and to dealing with that police officer in terms of having eligibility cool rights Marne, how would you characterize the relationship between young people of color and the police in San Diego? I would have to first speak to the relationship with our youth and police within San Diego unified because I don't know if it is common knowledge that San Diego in a fight school touristic has its own police department that are highly trained with supporting and interacting with youth. I don't know if it is common knowledge, but San Diego as a city and the police department are recognized in terms of their restorative practices. San Diego unified school police and our district have embraced this. So that means that for example, students that would probably normally be arrested for certain incidences most likely more than 50% of them go into other programs. A diversionprogram at that involve wraparound services, counseling, mentors, things like that. So it is really important that there's additional training not only for students, but also with law enforcement and many times San Diego unified school police participate in these trainings. As leaders in the city and effectively and safely supporting our youth. What does law enforcement Dennis think about these workshops? The Police Department your San Diego? I cannot really speak for the police department. I do know that they themselves based on their own studies have documented the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be stopped than any other racial group in San Diego. So they have to be aware that the youth, the African-American youth is well as any other African-American drivers there going to be very wary of police presence when they are on the road. Sorry, go ahead, Marne. I wanted to jump in and say that in my particular subdistrict and these are where the workshops are occurring Lincoln, Morse and Crawford, we serve 31,000 families, students and their families, 90% of whom meet the poverty guidelines, 40% English is not there second language, historically, there have been many more arrest in our part of town than any other part of San Diego. That's why this workshop and this conversation is particularly important to have before students are dispersed for the summer. It is critical that students understand what it means edits in our title as well, being safe every day to live another day because you matter. How to safely and effectively to mitigate with law enforcement, that's the reason why this partnership with OBI grow Adobe grow limb Bar Association is incredibly important it is just the beginning spin I guess my question to Dennis is the Police Department participating in any way in -- on these together workshops? We certainly have officer Ruben Littlejohn -- Whose our chief of police. As Marne said, our chief of police, we haven't had any officers from the San Diego Police Department. However, I would say that as President of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, I have personally met with chief Zimmerman and expressed our concerns about the relationship between the African-American community and the San Diego Police Department. There are someanimosity problems and we told chief Zimmerman that we have the same interest as a Bar Association as we think the San Diego Police Department has an effect that is to improve the relationship. Between the San Diego Police Department and the African-American community and there is a lot of room for improvement. Unit two are taking proactive stance on this and a very positive spin on it, but is there certain amount of sadness the fact that these classes actually have to occur? Of course. We are responding to an epidemic of nationwide homicides which are caused by police officers involving African-American with Yvonne Martin although that was not a police officer, there was a one of the always officer involved. With Tamir rise, with Michael Brown, with Eric Garner, the list is just going on and on and on and as I said before, we simply want to educate our youth and to make them aware that there are certain things that you as a young African-American man should not do when you are stopped by the police. The officer has a family to go home to and we respect that. He wants to make sure that he is able to go home safely every night so you cannot do anything that requires that officer to believe that he is in danger of his life. We role-played at Morse and I acted out a scenario with another attorney from Earl B. Gilliam attorney James Sanford. He acted as the officer, I acted as the driver. You try to pull me over. I didn't stop right away and when I did I jump out of the car and I said why are you stopping me and I got all angry and approach the officer and as an officer my fellow panelist appropriately Jim Huseby juniors, me and yelled wrapping to get back into the car. We want to make sure that we don't endanger the officer's lives and we certainly don't want to endanger the lives of any of our African-American youth. Dennis, have you had any encounters with the police -- any Police Department that were negative in your past? Yes. When I was a college student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, I was a very popular student because actually had a car and the most most of my colleagues didn't have a car. So we would go into Philadelphia area and go to parties and if we were teaching this course of Philadelphia it would not do what to do if you are stopped by the police, would be called you are going to be stopped by the police, here's what you do. Was not very pleasant experience. Is seeing that we would always almost always get stopped by the police and I would have about five or six African-American men in the car with me. They would tell us to get out of the car, they would tell us to place our palms on the hood of the car and when the officers approached us I would tell all of my college of those, don't say anything, just be C-4, I'm going to handle this. Iwould give the officer what I learned from this is that I would give the officer my drivers license even before he requested it and I gave, University of Pennsylvania student ID so he would know that we are not up to any illegal activity and we are just college students out to have some fun. But they violated our rights persistently. They would tell us things like that researcher car. The question should have been can I search your car? Can I search or trunk? But they said let me do it and we felt intimidated. Seems like business is probably the perfect person to lead these workshops. I'm wondering decide the workshop this afternoon, our there's others plant? There are others plan so like you said this workshop happening this afternoon at 2:30 PM at Crawford and Crawford but there's also going to be another workshop on May 28, next Thursday, at Lincoln high school at 3:30 PM. That would have concluded first series at three different high school. I want to thank you both so much for coming in and speaking with us about this. I've been speaking with attorney Dennis Dawson, President of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association and Marne Foster whose board President of the San Diego unified school District district. Thank you very much. Thank you Thank you.

As communities continue to rally against violent police confrontations, a group of black attorneys are trying to prevent the same thing from happening in San Diego by educating students on what to do if they are stopped by officers.

The shooting death of Walter Scott shows how it can take just a few seconds for an encounter with police to turn deadly. Scott was unarmed when he was fatally shot by a North Charleston, S.C., police officer as he was running away.

The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association is visiting local high schools to teach students about their legal rights and what they can do to protect their personal safety when being stopped by police.


"We're responding to an epidemic of nationwide homicides caused by police officers," said Dennis Dawson, president of the association.

The first presentation took place at Morse High School. Others are set for Crawford High on Thursday and Lincoln High on May 28.

"It is very important that we inform students on what to do if, when and how," said Marne Foster, president of the San Diego Unified School Board.

Dawson said that at the first presentation the students were very engaged and thankful for the training.

"If we educate them in advance we have done as much as we possibly could. The teaching is used to maximize the chances of leaving that encounter safely," Dawson said on KPBS Midday Edition Thursday.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.