FORESTVILLE— A discussion between youth and officials from Prince George’s County law enforcement agencies Saturday left those in attendance walking away understanding one thing— police officers are people too and citizens need to be careful when interacting with police. Baller Moms, a group of mothers dedicated to providing opportunities for children through sports, hosted a […]
FORESTVILLE— A discussion between youth and officials from Prince George’s County law enforcement agencies Saturday left those in attendance walking away understanding one thing— police officers are people too and citizens need to be careful when interacting with police.
Baller Moms, a group of mothers dedicated to providing opportunities for children through sports, hosted a panel discussion at the Ball Unlimited basketball facility to help foster a positive relationship between the youth of Prince George’s County and law enforcement officials. Among the panelists were former Prince George’s County sheriff Michael Jackson; Camara Mintz, a former police officer and current defense attorney; Silas Grant, a community activist throughout the area; and Abdul Salaam, a community activist and a past victim of police brutality.
Mintz said a lot of officers are afraid of the people they pull over and the situations they are presented with. Oftentimes, he said, officers do not know how to deal with minorities because they have not interacted with them enough.
“Police officers are people too. They bring on their biases,” Mintz said. “We need to be conscious of ourselves. A lot of (officers) are scared, so when you make certain movements, they go from zero to 10 just like that. Just be conscious of where your hands are.”
Officers are trained to stop threats and not trained to kill people, Jackson said, but people must be able to control themselves in a matter where they do not make officers feel there is a threat. Citizens have to make sure they “make it out of the situation,” Jackson said.
“You’re trained to stop the threat, if there is a threat. That’s it. Period,” Jackson said. “What we’re saying is, let’s not be the cause for someone to take it from zero to 10. My comfort level with you comes from my engaging with you. At the end of the day, our job (as citizens) is to listen to what is said.”
The way police treat people in communities across the country has become an ongoing problem, Jackson said, and it is one of the biggest reasons why he wanted to change when he became sheriff.
“The reason I’ll tell you I joined the sheriff’s office is because of the way police treated the citizens of this county,” Jackson said. “To me, law enforcement in Prince George’s County was not professional enough. And I’ve always been told not to talk about (a problem) unless you’re going to do something about it.”
As the sheriff, Jackson said, he made sure his deputies were connected with their surrounding communities because often police officers are too focused on controlling people rather than situations.
“There are very few people who wear the uniform who care and do it the right way,” Jackson said.
There are two ways to prevent bad officers from joining the police force, Jackson said: vote in elections and report police brutality when it occurs. Citizens must vote, he said, because it allows them the opportunity to elect a sheriff they believe will lead and connect with a community. He also said citizens must report police brutality and wrong-doing when they see it to political leaders in order to make them aware it occurs.
“The pressure for leaders of agencies comes from political pressure, not citizen pressure,” Jackson said. “A lot of times we think our community leaders can apply that pressure, but the pressure, quite frankly, comes from the political pressure.”
Salaam said he recommends people turn on cell phone recorders when they are pulled over. Citizens should not tell the officer the recorder is on, Salaam said, because it could possibly make the officer defensive.
Youth of today need to become better educated on how to interact with police officers, Salaam said, because so far he believes the older generations have failed to educate them.
“These are the things that we have to educate ourselves to and hand down to this next generation,” Salaam said. “We were too lazy, too cool and too slick and doing too many individual things. We dropped the ball on things like making sure our community was being governed and led right.”
However, the new generation of youth is still learning and doing it at a fast rate, Grant said. They are exposed to more things and more people, but that could present a possible danger for the youth as well.
“It is a different generation. You’re traveling more with different adults. The first thing I say to you when you encounter police, you have to identify who the authority is,” Grant said. “If you do encounter the police and you’re not in the presence of an adult or an authority, it is okay to tell the police that you’re scared. If you let the officer know that, then the officer might be more willing to diffuse the situation.”