UWG’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter hosted an interactive discussion on knowing how to deal with encounters with law enforcement. Guest speaker Mawuli Davis, a founding partner of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm, was invited to provide insight that he has gained in his profession.
Being an institution with a large representation of black students, the students at UWG have had problems with the police on and off campus.
“We have an issue with our police on a county level, on a city level, a sheriff level, state patrol, Douglasville, Villa Rica, on top of UPD,” said Kayla Mitchell, Political Action chair of the NAACP.
The relationship between people of color and the police have been tense and getting worse over the years. The main purpose of this discussion was to give students of color different approaches to de-escalate situations with the police. The guest speaker began by asking the audience questions about the law.
These questions had varying answers but they left the students shocked. Although alarming, this gave them a different perspective on how the system works, and how, at times, worked against them.
“Racial profiling is legal,” said Davis. “They can really say I stopped this person because they were black in a white neighborhood, but their tag light was out.”
In context, officers cannot use racial profiling as the main reason to suspect a crime or pull someone over, but they may use another reason or “probable cause” to approach, like a broken tail light or speeding. However, these stops are what usually lead to hostile situations.
Davis explained that in these situations it is best to stay calm to help de-escalate the tension. If pulled over for no apparent reason and the police officer has to release you then instead of making a scene it is best to just ask for their information and file a complaint. That way if other people have experienced similar treatment by the same officer then there is a record. Also, it is best to notify local NAACP chapters so they too can have a record of the complaint and proof that an officer is abusing their position.
However, in the event that students are caught in possession of marijuana or other contraband, instead of trying to run from the police they should just cooperate and take the charge. This is the best way to be protected against a possible fatal encounter.
“We prepare for things all the time, why wouldn’t we prepare for an encounter with someone who holds life and death in their hands,” said Davis.
The underlying message of the discussion was that as young adults of color, it is important to know how to handle possible scenarios so that they can leave them safely. By being smart and knowing your rights any interaction with law enforcement can be less threatening.