CLEVELAND-- What would you do if you were stopped by police? It seems like a simple question, but civil rights experts say many people do not respond appropriately, which can lead to a number of problematic outcomes.
“Individuals will get stopped by the police and they’ll panic, but you have certain rights and many people forget those rights as soon as police lights go on,“ said Michael Nelson, NAACP Criminal Justice Co-chair of the Cleveland Branch.
Mr. Nelson joined representatives from the ACLU Ohio, and public defender’s office for a special civil rights training event Monday night at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland; that's where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police in November, while holding an airsoft pistol. Officers said they thought it was real gun.
Multiple protests have been held since the shooting so the seminar offered information on proper peaceful protesting.
Different police interaction scenarios were discussed along with some role playing among participants.
Tip cards were also distributed that answered questions like “What do you do if you’re stopped for questioning,” or “stopped in your car,” or “arrested and taken to a police station.”
“We really encourage education so people feel empowered and exercise their rights,” said Shakyra Diaz, policy manager for the ACLU of Ohio.
A similar event was also held Monday night in East Cleveland Municipal Court.
It was open to the public but some attendees were sentenced to participate after problems in the past.
Judge William Dawson called it their “cycle breaker program,” because people were being taught how to avoid negative interactions with both the legal system and police officers.
“What we do is give them the tools to make better decisions,” said Judge Dawson.
Future events are already being planned to continue educating the public.
Organizers like Judge Dawson said the hope is to reduce unnecessary violence from both the public and police officers by forging a better understanding of everyone’s rights and responsibilities
“So there’s no deadly outcome,” said Judge Dawson.