UWG’s Office of Civic Impact and Leadership hosted a hybrid event on Thursday, Sept. 17 for Constitution Day, which is celebrated every year by UWG with different presentations to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution.
At the event, Carrollton Police Officer Michael McDowell led a presentation about how the Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, and he also spoke about how the amendment translates to his profession. The event was held in-person with COVID-19 safety procedures put into place, and was also livestreamed for people who could not physically attend.
“We thought this was really important—not just for the purpose of Constitution Day—but for something that really speaks to our liberties as citizens,” said UWG professor and Director of Civic Engagement, Chapman Rackaway. “This presentation is something that our students, faculty, staff and other members of the community should be able to see.”
To start his presentation, McDowell thoroughly demonstrated the procedures that one should go through when getting pulled over or approached by a police officer. McDowell brought up several different situations that might happen during a traffic stop and demonstrated what to do in each situation. One particular situation that McDowell walked the audience through was how to tell an officer that you have a registered weapon in your vehicle. He explained Miranda Rights to the audience, which are the legal rights of an arrested person to have an attorney and refuse to answer questions.
“I came to speak today to specifically give students more knowledge about interacting with law enforcement,” said McDowell.
McDowell also addressed the use of body cameras in the police force. He confirmed that officers who work for the Carrollton Police Department are required to wear body cameras at all times because of the department’s policy. While demonstrating how body cameras work, McDowell emphasized the importance of body camera footage for both officers and civilians in situations such as traffic stops or arrests.
Information was given to the audience about what to do if they feel like their rights have been violated during a traffic stop or encounter with police. McDowell told the audience that if they feel like an officer violated their rights during an encounter then they need to contact the police department and make a formal, written complaint. McDowell also informed the audience that they can speak with a lawyer with full transparency about what occurred during the encounter.
“You have various options and tools that you can utilize if you feel like your rights were violated,” said McDowell. “People just need to be given knowledge about the resources they have.”
Transparency is a word that McDowell used several times and seems to be the theme of both his presentation and approach to his career. McDowell talked to the audience about how honest communication from both police officers and civilians during encounters can ensure that processes go smoothly. He spoke about the importance of police departments being involved and communicating with the local community to help bridge any gaps that may be present.
“It’s all about communication,” said McDowell. “I’m not a community enforcer, but I’m a community partner.”