For many who have grown up in an urban environment, the sight of an approaching police officer generates fear and extreme anxiety. These feelings can intensify if a stop occurs in an isolated area.
Despite your concerns, DO NOT RUN from the police and DO NOT DISOBEY A DIRECT ORDER, even if you think the officer is wrong. Always keep your hands in sight and, before reaching for any item such as identification or a driver’s license, ask the officer if it is okay to do so.
Learn your rights. Then, if you must, you can express your knowledge of them. However, do not argue with the officer about them or refuse an order because of them. You can always bring up later a violation of your rights. If you tell an officer that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle, do not interfere with the officer if he begins to search your car anyway. The confrontation could cost you more than your freedom, you could lose your life.
In the past year, video has captured images of African-Americans either running from or not completely cooperating with police. The result in most cases has been death:
On July 19, 2015, Samuel Debose was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer after Debose restarted his car after being told to exit his vehicle.
On July 10, 2015, Sandra Bland was stopped by a Texas state trooper for a failure to signal a lane change and was arrested when she protested being forced to exit her car. Bland died in jail under suspicious circumstances 3 days later.
On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray died after running when he saw the police. It is unclear why they did so but Baltimore police detained, arrested and transported him to jail. Gray died in police custody after suffering a mysterious spinal injury.
On April 4, 2015, Walter L. Scott ran after being stopped by a Charleston police officer, who repeatedly shot him in the back while he ran away. Scott died at the scene.
On February 10, 2015, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was accused of throwing rocks, ran from the police in Pasco, Washington. He eventually stopped but, when he put his hands up, police shot and killed him.
A word about your rights:
You have a right not to interact with the police if you are lawfully going about your business. While it is not lawful for the police to detain you, in the absence of reasonable suspicion because you do not want to talk, if you turn and run for no reason, your running can provide the suspicion needed for the police to detain you, especially in a high-crime area.
Do not run from the police whether you are driving or on foot. The risk is simply too great that you and others—including innocent bystanders—will be seriously injured or even killed.
If you are driving alone and a police officer activates his lights to pull you over, try to pull over into a legal parking space if you can do so fairly quickly. It will prevent your car from being towed, should you be arrested or not allowed to continue to drive the vehicle.
Whether you are a passenger or the driver, if you are ordered out of the car, exit the car. You do not have a right to stay inside your car, even on a routine traffic stop. Even if the officer’s order is a violation of your rights, obey the order to preserve your safety—a refusal could get you shot and cost you your life.
If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com