By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Nearly one dozen police officers, defense attorneys, and prosecutors from across the city of Atlanta joined forces on Sept. 15 to speak with students at B.E.S.T. Academy about police behavior and how to keep themselves safe when interacting with law enforcement.
Sponsored by 100 Black Men of Atlanta in partnership with Emerging 100, the Fourth Annual Police Interaction Forum was designed to provide insight and discuss useful steps for students to implement when interacting with police to have a positive outcome. During the forum, current issues in the media were discussed, students’ concerns were heard, and panelists shared useful strategies.
Topics included police-involved murders of Black men, verbal abuse by police officers, and what to do when stopped by a police officer. Panelists included Keith Lamar Jr., Fulton County deputy district attorney and director of Community Prosecution; Ian Elmore-Moore, Fulton County community resource program specialist; Tyrone Dennis, investigator with the Atlanta Police Department; Atteeyah Hollie, staff attorney, Southern Center for Human Rights; and Brain Gaither, Fulton County assistant solicitor general.
“Let the window down, lay your hands on the window, and wait for police to acknowledge what you are doing,” one panelist told the group of about 50 students.
Another panelist told students they can often help de-escalate situations by relaxing and maintaining their composure.
“Be cool about it,” said Gaither, who told students. “Don’t be out of control. Be respectful and civil. And how do you escape? Make sure you survive the situation. You can do something about it later.”
In addition to discussing topics such as video recording, body cameras and Miranda Rights, panelists like Tyrone Dennis urged students to make a difference in their communities by becoming police officers.
“If we want better policing and police who understand us, we need to be police,” Dennis said. “Black officers are needed who have a better understanding of the community. It’s a way to bridge the gap.”
Assistant Principal Robert Williams said the forum will have a lasting impact on students.
“This is eye-opening for these kids because they’re able to get practical strategies and tools to have positive interactions with police officers,” Williams said. “They will always be able to refer to the advice they received.”
B.E.S.T. senior GS3 Harris said the forum helped him develop a different perspective on dealing with police officers.
“I learned that cops are trying to do their job, so it’s up to me to cooperate and be compliant,” GS3 said. “You don’t want to be the one in the wrong, so you have to be respectful. Not all cops are the same.”