The Troy chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized a “Don’t Shoot!” know-your-rights seminar last Thursday that addressed the issues of police-civilian interactions.
Miles Webster, a junior secondary education major from Moody and the vice president of the Troy NAACP, said it was about rights as well as etiquette.
“It’s how to respond to certain situations, not as much avoid them, as knowing how to respond,” Webster said.
The four speakers — including University Police Detective James Taylor and patrolman Orlando Hardie, as well as two city officers, Brannon Alford and Tori Foster — explained the idea of “probable cause”: grounds for stopping a vehicle, such as dysfunctional headlights.
“It’s really a judgment call,” Taylor said. “Verbal commands and body language. You know, it has to work together.
“Sometimes officers’ body language — they try to be nice, but their body language is doing this, hand on a gun … you’re talking nice, but you got your hand on the gun.”
Taylor also addressed the anxiety some drivers have about police following them.
“A lot of the times officers are following you, they’re receiving information back to see the tag that they ran maybe — ‘hold on a minute, we got a warrant on that guy’ — so before he turns his blue lights on, to make sure he got all his information,” Taylor said. “So he may follow you for a minute to see what’s going on, and then he may turn around if you come back clear, you know, but he’s just receiving information.”
The speakers also emphasized the importance of cooperating with the police and suggested taking precautionary measures such as turning on the lights inside the car, lowering the windows to make the backseat visible, informing the officer about the presence of firearms in the car and keeping hands on the steering wheel.
“It’s all about communication,” Taylor said. He added that he believed that in the case of Philando Castile, who did inform the police about the firearm in his car, Castile’s attempt to reach for paperwork might have been interpreted as a reach for the gun.
“If we had better communication, that boy might’ve lived,” Taylor said.
According to the Washington Post database, 963 people were shot and killed by the police in 2016. One of the participants in the Troy seminar, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that the police force should get more training on sensitivity in a seminar similar to the one organized by NAACP.
“You have the right to ask for their supervisor,” Webster said. “And officers these days have mics and cameras.”
Mikayla McCurry, a junior communication major from Montgomery and a member of NAACP, said that she didn’t believe the sole responsibility for the outcome of the interaction should rest on the officers.
NAACP’s website states that the group’s mission is to “remove barriers of racial discrimination.” Webster said that the Troy chapter of NAACP is an umbrella for other organizations.
“Essentially on Troy University campus, we coexist as a student union and as a beacon for black organizations, black groups,” Webster said, “and address social issues, being intentional, being adamant about changing those issues.
“Sometimes that may just mean raising awareness about them.”