Sunday, October 02, 2016

What should we teach ninth graders so police won't shoot them?

What might Texas ninth graders be taught about interactions with law enforcement that could prevent police from shooting as many of them later on?

That's the question posed by Sen. John Whitmire's suggestion that they be "taught how to properly interact with police when they are stopped for traffic violations or if they are detained," as the Houston Chronicle's Mike Ward reported on Thursday.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said his proposed legislation would require the Texas Education Agency to develop curriculum "in law enforcement duties and interaction."

If eventually approved by the Legislature, the law would be the first of its kind in Texas.

"There is no home team or visiting team. We must all come together to develop the best strategies to improve relations and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve," Whitmire said. "Increased training and education for both peace officers and our students will help foster positive relations and interactions."
A few paragraphs down from the "first of its kind" claim, though, we learn that "state-required driver training programs already instruct teenagers how to act when they are stopped by police for a traffic violation." So we're assuming this instruction would be somehow better or different than what's taught in driver's ed, which is essentially the cop-centric "comply and complain" model - comply with the officer's instructions at the traffic stop and complain later if your rights were violated. Wrote Ward:
"Too often police encounters are ending in a tragedy, and that's what we want to stop," Whitmire said. "If you feel an officer does you wrong, you don't take it up with them out on the street, you take it up with an administrator. That's one of the things I think we'll teach."
But there has to be more to it than that. You can't just tell kids that the police officer's life, their rights, and their most unreasonable instructions matter more than the life, rights, or most reasonable demands for respectful treatment of a detained driver, and if you don't like it, shut up and complain later. Sure, you can tell people their rights and even their lives don't matter as much as the officers' under the law. But it's more difficult to convince an individual to abnegate their own personhood in a real-life situation than it is to do so in statute or a judicial opinion.

Regardless, since teaching "comply and complain" to generations of Texas drivers ed students hasn't done the trick, what should be in this new curriculum that would make a greater difference?

Perhaps it should be sort of an institutional version of "The Talk" which many black families have with their children as they begin to come of age. Texas collects rudimentary racial profiling data at every agency which makes traffic stops, and more detailed data on after-stop activities like searches at some agencies, including DPS. Texas could make every department gather the same data DPS does and then 9th grade schoolkids could be told: If you're black (or Hispanic, etc.) in our town, you're X times as likely to be stopped by police as your white schoolmates, Y times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop, and Z times as likely to be shot and killed. If you're white, you still might be stopped, searched, or killed by police (more whites than blacks are killed by law enforcement, though the per-capita rate is lower), so they should still know this information. And it won't hurt white kids to understand that things are different for some of their classmates than for them.

People want this information about how to interact with cops in a way that protects their rights. When I was Police Accountability Project Director at ACLU of Texas during the implementation of Texas' racial profiling law, we were asked to do "Know Your Rights" trainings all over the state about how to interact with police. A lot of people think they have more rights than they do, in some ways, but also fewer than they tend to understand at specific points in the process. Let's teach them both.

Students should be taught that police can arrest them for petty offenses, like Sandra Bland's failure-to-signal-a-lane change, at the officer's discretion, even when the law envisions no jail time as punishment for the offense. (Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation in 2001 to limit such arrests, but Republican state Sen. Konni Burton, who is on Chairman Whitmire's Criminal Justice Committee, has vowed to carry a newer, beefed up version in 2017. So if that passed, students could be informed in the new curriculum that they cannot be arrested for Class C misdemeanors, or whatever the rule turns out to be.)

It's true the safest time to take up an officer's misbehavior is after the fact; confronting it at the time could get you tazed, beaten, or shot. But will students be taught how seldom officers are held accountable after citizen complaints, even when there's video? In Austin, for example, "Less than 5 percent of the complaints from the public resulted in officer discipline," an audit found. The Statesman's recent look at DPS showed none of the racial profiling complaints from the public were found to be justified by the agency, even though video posted by the Statesman showed drivers being treated with open disrespect. We shouldn't advise people to complain without also telling them complaints tend to be fruitless. The purpose here should be to educate students, not propagandize them.

A curriculum which taught students the legal limits of their personal rights when interacting with police might be useful, but only if it empowers students to END interactions with police as soon as possible and explains why that's always in their personal best interests when being questioned without a lawyer. Teaching them to "comply" cannot mean "comply with questioning." Drivers must submit to short-term detention if they're pulled over but they're under no obligation to explain where they're coming from, where they're going, what they're doing, consent to a search, etc.. If the curriculum does not acknowledge those limitations on officers' ability to enforce compliance and ignores drivers' civil liberties in favor of emphasizing cops' authority, it won't solve the problem and may make it worse.

There are also plenty of facts, figures, history, and basic civics they could be taught which might help provide meaningful context, perhaps dating back to the Fourth Amendment's creation in response to unreasonable searches by law enforcement under King George which helped spark the American Revolution. Students could be shown video montages of unarmed people being shot or assaulted by police - perhaps even video from Rodney King's beating - so they can understand fully that being unarmed or even submissive will not necessarily keep a cop from assaulting, shooting, or even killing you. Such a curriculum would truly inspire caution, perhaps even sufficient to make an impression strong enough to be recalled during those critical, decisive moments when a wrong move might get a kid killed.

Grits believes this more catholic approach could do more to reduce police shootings than teaching pure "compliance." Help the kids understand their own self interests, how and why they (in some cases literally) have skin in the game. People will never believe they have no rights and are powerless. Told so, teenagers inevitably will seek to take power themselves in unpredictable and unproductive ways. ("Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," wrote the bard.)

Education that empowers students to fully exercise their rights to limit police intrusion into their lives might reduce negative interactions by giving ninth graders tools to peacefully get away from those cops who might hurt or even kill them if they mouth off or reach into their pockets. However, such proposals mustn't divert legislative attention away from systemic changes also needed to deescalate the unnecessary aggression some police officers bring to interactions with the public. The police are the agents of the state, after all. Those ninth graders are its future rulers.


Anonymous said...

I had mentioned in prior posts that required education in this matter should be required, but I recall Grits saying it was "undemocratic"...funnying that a Democrat State Senator proposes this similar education.

Teaching both compliance and what you propose seems generally reasonable.

Showing videos of encounters w/ LE where individuals are 1) encountered and released, 2) encountered w/ force used by LE (both reasonable and unreasonable force) and 3) encounters in which LE are assaulted and/or shot would provide students with an overall perspective.

By showing students encounters where individuals are encountered and/or released could be what 95+% of folks encounter during a routine traffic stop. Sure folks get arrested during traffic encounters for arrest warrants, during traffic crash encounters, and for a variety of things like DWI or driving with a suspended license, etc.

By showing students encounters w/ LE where force is used; is likely what they already see on TV. This could include reasonable and unreasonable use of force incidents AND the events that led up to the use of force. This being the hottest and most contentious topic in the media.

By showing students encounters w/ LE where LE officers are assaulted and/or shot could provide students w/ the LE perspective.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You mistake Big Ds and little ones, 1:06. And if you're the same person I'm thinking of in prior comments (all anonymous, so hard to tell), you suggested generalized training so kids would submit to authority of all kinds. This is a bit more limited.

If kids are taught their rights so they can exercise them to extract themselves from law enforcement's custody as quickly as possible during temporary detentions, that's one thing. But that's decidedly not what commenters (maybe you) suggested in the past, nor does it necessarily seem to be the emphasis of this proposal judging from the initial round of coverage.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire would do a whole lot better spending his time and the "Great State of Texas'” money on educating the police forces of Texas on what a citizen’s right is and how to de-escalate a tense situation. He should also introduce legislation for enhanced penalties against police officers who violate the laws of the Texas or its confutation. (“Official Oppression” - a misdemeanor – Really?????? – It needs to be a felony at least.)

The cops of this state need to learn that the general public is NOT their enemy, and they need to stop treating those they encounter as an everyday part of their jobs as such.

Sandra Bland did not need Encinia’s temper tantrum, roadside cavity searched on young females need not have been performed by DPS (and should have been prosecuted as a felony sexual assault by the spineless DA Jerri Yenne i(R) in Brazoria County) nor did a homeless man need to be beaten with a nightstick at a Houston Metro station. Fortunately, there was video of all – but little good it did the victims of the ensuing police violence. The “officers” may face “up to a year in jail” on their respective charges. That needs to change and it needs to change in the next legislative session. With our pro-cop Lt. Governor in the persona of Dan Patrick, it’s doubtful any useful legislation regarding police reform will get through calendar’s committee, let alone ah proper hearing in the legislature.

Anyone who’s ever tried to file a complaint against a Texas cop of any agency knows what an uphill battle that is, from the cop being ill tempered and bad mannered to a cop committing outright murder, the cops are protected by their departments, their unions, their cities, and numerous state laws that favor the police in all situations.

The only way police will be brought into line will be if the legislature toughens the laws that apply to police brutality and officials oppression, and pro-cop DAs and judges start prosecuting those laws “to the fullest extent of the law” as they do with any ”civilian”. (Right Messrs. Yennie, Anderson, Healy and a many others?) There are “enhanced” penalties when the public “resists”, “attacks” or otherwise offends the “delicate sensibilities” of a police officer (or other public “servants”).

WHY NOT ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR COPS WHEN THEY STEP OVER THE LINE MR. WHITMIRE? HOW ABOUT ENHANCING THE TEXAS OPEN RECORDS LAWS TO MAKE THE POLICE ORE TRANSPARENT MR. WHITMIRE? Those would be good starts. As stated previously, getting any that type of would be about as effective as “comply and complain.”

As far as the Texas ACLU and their Texas affiliates, I haven’t seen much of value from them in regard to the civil liberties of Texans and police interactions for many many years. Thad’s why I stopped giving and stopped volunteering my time.

Teenagers need discipline and to be taught proper manners, even when dealing with the police. “Comply and complain is a fallacy perpetuated by the police, their unions and pro-police politicians (including judges).

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise” – Socrates – This problem with kids being disrespectful to authority is NOT new………

Anonymous said...

How about just showing them the Chris Rock "How not to get your ass kicked by police" YouTube video? It's funny and all, but most people who live thru encounters with police generally agree this is accurate.

kherbert said...

3 thoughts
1. Why is it small government people always want teachers to do parents' jobs, but they don't want us teaching basic science facts (especially climate change or reproduction) or the Constitution* (the actual one, not the one that exists in the small government people's imagination)

2. 9th grade (14 - 16 years old) is way to late to teach basic social manners. If the foundation isn't solid before 5 yo it generally takes painful lessons to learn how how to interact with people.

3. It is the GROWN UP police officers that need to be handling the situations properly. Seriously this smells just as bad as the "how not to get raped" workshops all incoming women freshman were required to attend at my university.

*At my old school district several years ago we got a packet, from the local member of the Federal House, we were required to teach on Constitution Day. It had so many factual errors including attributing the authorship of the constitution to Thomas Jefferson. The packet came through the principals not the Social Studies/History department. Thankfully a bunch of teachers sent scans of the packet to the head of SS/History and it was pulled. Doesn't change the fact that my Principal and some teachers argued with me about Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution.

Gadfly said...

Totally agreed, second anon. In a long list of Whitmire's frustrating actions, this is probably a new low.

Anonymous said...

This is just a first step to deprive citizens of their rights.

If you don’t exercise your rights, you’ll lose them, and you cannot use them if you fear getting killed when interacting with police.

Far better to teach the following:

1. NEVER grant permission to the police (or anyone else) to search your house, car, bags/luggage, person or any other property.

2. During a traffic stop, do not answer questions that are not related to the stop, such as where are you coming from or where you are going, if you are carrying large sums of cash, where your work, or what the purpose of your travel is. If the officer persists with these questions, tell him you want to speak with your attorney. If the officer tells you that you are free to go, then LEAVE. Do not agree to stay and answer more questions.

3. If a police officer asks you to exit your car, roll your window up, exit the car and immediately close the car door. Lock the car door and place your keys in your pocket. If passengers are asked to exit the car, tell them to do the same thing.

4. If an officer begins talking to you on the street, ask the officer if you are being detained. If the officer says no, then tell the officer you do not want to speak to him and leave the area. If you are told you are being detained or are under arrest, NEVER answer any questions. Tell the officer you are remaining silent and that you want to speak to your attorney immediately.

5. The most common reasons for police to show up at your front door is because of noise or pet complaints. Keep your stereo turned downed, tell your guests to be quiet, and keep your pets under control.

6. If the police knock on your door, step outside and CLOSE the door behind you while you find out why they are there. NEVER consent to any search. If the police have a search warrant, stand aside and remain silent other than to say you want to contact your attorney immediately.

Anonymous said...

10:07PM - those suggestions are fine, but I hope you're never a victim of a crime. With those absolute positions, you, your neighbor, or a thief might make solving a (your) home burglary impossible. Cops will be just report takers w/ NO expectation of any follow-up.

Lynn Pride Richardson said...

The Dallas County Public Defender's Office has a handout that we have been distributing for a couple years. Our GUIDE TO INTERACTING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT is a comprehensive instructional guide that was developed not just for kids but for any person of color who gets stopped by the police. The problem is that it cannot help you if you get stopped by a bad cop with less than honorable intentions. If we are going to develop a comprehensive curriculum for young people we need to educate them on what to do if they come into contact with that cop that will handle them aggressively and violate their rights even if they are following all their commands.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 10:07..I agree with all of your points except for #6. I once watched a video put out by the ACLU regarding when the police knock on your door. If they do not have a valid search warrant or just cause to enter your home, you should NOT step outside of your doorway. As soon as you step outside of your door you have given up a lot of your protection. Crack the door open with the chain still attached and speak to them through the opening...if you even want to go that far. Does anyone disagree?

Anonymous said...

As a parent I would certainly not ant anyone here teaching my child anything. You people feel this incessant need to tell others what they need to be doing. Go make a contribution to society, please.

Anonymous said...

Gee Anonymous 09:54...did you feel like you "needed" to tell other what they need to be doing? My oh my...the pot calling the kettle black! lol

Lee said...

This is an interesting conversation to have but teaching this to 9th graders may not be realistic.

First there is the structure of the Texas Curriculum that requires World Geography and World History to be taught in the 9 & 10th grade levels respectively for social studies. I assume that social studies would be the default class subject (as opposed to Algebra, English, Biology, Keyboarding, Health, Speech or Athletics) to which this most closely relates but there is still many differences between talking bout the Roman Empire or natural resources and police interaction. In the 11th grade students take the United States History since the Civil War which is supposed to continue off of the United States History class that they took in the 8th grade. In the 12th grade students take Government and Economics each for a semester in which does include brief instruction of some things such as civil liberties. By this time most students have already been driving for about 6 months to a year already and may have already had one or more unpleasant police encounters.

Most parents students and teachers are not going to be inclined to add another additional class into the 24 (?) class credits needed to graduate on top of the overextended schedules of most high school students whom are juggling school with drivers education, extracurricular activities, first jobs, college applications, family, first loves and socializing.

Suggesting that adolescents (not society's best decision makers and a very rebellious lot) are going to fully understand or take seriously what you are wanting them to learn is unrealistic at best.

In keeping fair since the vocation in question is law enforcement shouldn't they be instructed to do their jobs better. Why should the burden be put of the civilians of whom are receiving no benefit (paycheck) to participate in learning something of which is not their profession. how is that any different in requiring students to take classes in firefighting or dental surgery when that may not be their chosen vocation. Will we be doing this for plumbers or all the other professions as well?

The bottom line is that we must train the police on how to deal with the civilians and not the civilians on how to deal with the police. After all, who is getting the paycheck here, and whose job is it?

Lee said...

This conversation reminds me of when (typically done in the 3rd-5th grades) administrators used to haul all the kids into the auditorium or gym and the local cop would show up to put the fear of God into the kids. I was this age in the 1990s when it was included in the DARE (anti-drug program) where we met the anti-crime dog (name escapes me at the moment, anyone remember?) in addition to the real police dogs and a few local prisoners (who gave us their life stories and also helped instill the fear of God into us 9 year olds). I believe this was all a part of the Bush-Clinton Drug War but I was very young and impressionable.

As our generation got older many kids during adolescence behaved like adolescents would have probably done otherwise (some better than others).

My point is that if this warning from the crime dog didn't deter us when we were the most impressionable, who is to say that it would work when we are the most rebellious (14-18 years)?

Anonymous said...

People want to be safe, but no one wants to be policed. It is kind of a give and take relationship where much has to do with our own actions which can cause a police it speeding, loud music, acting a fool fighting and/or stealing.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 05:52..this is not about the smart and good cops doing their's about the bully dirty cop that harasses citizens. It's not about people not wanting to be's about citizens wanting something done about the bad cops...get a clue please.

Anonymous said...

7:47PM so we're talking about a very small percentage then.

Anonymous said...

Not hardly...

Anonymous said...

I have been a defense attorney for 13 years and have represented clients in both Ohio and Texas. I can say that it is a far cry from "a very small percentage" as to how many law enforcement officers will lie, plant evidence and alter official records in order to help the DA win a case. It is shameful as to the state of the justice system here in our country.

Lee said...

You anons miss the point. Police should do THEIR jobs better & not require civilians to accomidate to their shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

I agree Lee

Anonymous said...

By the time something like this could be instituted, it probably won't be necessary. People are fed-up, and as we have witnessed in the past couple of months, they're beginning to fight back. I think one of two things are about to happen. There will be widespread civil unrest with multiple snipers targeting police officers which will prompt a declaration of Martial Law and a breakdown of our government, or there will be some serious police reform. And there just doesn't seem to be enough support for serious police reform so I really don't expect it to happen. And Trump has signaled to cops that his Justice Department won't be charging any of them should he be elected, and this will only embolden them to inflict more violence and kill even more citizens as they enforce Trump's Authoritarian rule.

How many of the regular readers here can honestly say they were shocked or even surprised at the two snipers who took out almost a dozen cops in recent months? Anyone? If you were, then you harbor an extremely dense mind and probably believe it will all end and that there will be no more attacks on police and that cops will suddenly end their murderous rampages tomorrow.

I predicted a lot of this way back in 1989 when Ida Lee Delaney was murdered on her way to work one morning by a gang of coked-up, drunken Houston cops who were charged but not punished for her killing. The only thing that has surprised me was that it took so long for blacks to begin fighting back. I think we can credit the internet and cameras for causing blacks to finally accept that they either must fight back or begin kneeling at massa's feet again.

sunray's wench said...

I think it's interesting Scott that your final comment is that the police are the 'agents of the state'. Over here, the police are 'public servants' and they police by public consent. They themselves state often that if they ever lost that public consent they would not be able to police effectively.

This proposal by Sen Whitmire may seem a good thing on the surface, but once in law, it could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.

Anonymous said...

This entire thing is nuts . JUST NUTS I TELL YOU!!!!!

Anonymous said...

One addenda:

"Comply and complain"

should be changed to

"COMPLY OR DIE........."

txbombshell said...

@Grits let's be honest. What REALLY needs to happen is what's referred to as good home training. Each generation puts more and more responsibility on SCHOOLS to teach our kids what HAS to begin at home,..morals, ethics,accountability and how about just plain ol respect?
The attitude of entitlement is one that is learned at an early age, and truly one of those things that is learned by examples set.
As people continue to pop out children that they have EXPECTING the government to be the main provider financially, THEY are certainly not going to want to bother with other responsibilities of raising and TEACHING a child the basics that should be learned along the way, way before school.

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