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How to survive a police stop

SEEKING ANSWERS: Families and friends of people killed in police custody march from Trafalgar Square down to Downing Street in 2014

LET ME begin by making one thing clear. Irrespective of what precedes a police stop, death is not a reasonable outcome. I think we can all agree on that.

However, it is clear that death can and does result after people come into contact with the police, irrespective of the use of what the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will no doubt call “reasonable force”. This leaves communities that are traditionally disproportionately targeted by the police, such as black males, between a rock and a very hard place.

Today Voice readers woke-up to the news that Rashan Charles, the latest black male to die during an encounter with a UK police officer, did not have any illegal substances in his throat when he died. It was initially reported that the police officer felt that Charles, 20, had tried to swallow a suspected drugs package while being pursued.

We know from bitter experience that black men can and have been stopped for absolutely no reason by the police. If you are frustrated as many black men are, tempers can flare and after that happens, the outcome is totally in the hands of the arresting officers (pun intended). On the other hand, even if you are justly stopped, but you know you are guilty of something, the instinct to run or fight will be pretty strong and the result is the same - outcome is in the hands of the officer.

So, how do you proceed? How do we advise our young men? What do we tell our young black men to ensure they make it home each night in one piece?

Well, before I tell you what I tell my son, let me make something abundantly clear. The change in behaviour should first come from the police. If white young men can be routinely stopped and survive, so can we. That is not an unreasonable expectation.

So, here’s what I tell my son and in fact any young men I work with:

1. Stay away from the police

We all know some cops need no reason to stop you beyond your race, so please do not give them an actual lawful reason to engage with you.

2. If you are stopped, innocent or guilty, remain calm

Do not shout, no matter how much you are baited. Yes, I said 'baited'. Move slowly, take your hands out of your pockets and open your palms.

3. Maintain constant eye contact with the officer

Ask why he has stopped you and admit nothing. Inform him that you would like a record of the stop, which should include his full details, like his/her badge number.

4. Resist the urge to be a smart arse

Remember, a racist cop is just looking for an excuse to escalate the situation, so give him/her nothing to work with. Speak a little as possible and always in even tones.

I know that the burden should not be on our young people to appease those elements of the force that would do them harm, but they are the ones ending-up dead.

This is a case where right does not mean might and we must control the things we can, and that is ourselves.

The sad part is that even after all this if an officer has the intent of escalating a stop, he/she will find a way. That hurts.

Years ago, a mother cussed me out for giving her son this advice. She said I was trying to teach her son to suck up to the police. I’m just trying to help our boys survive the police.

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