Expert advice to police and civilians, how to overcome racial bias

TIME — Jennifer Eberhardt is a psychology professor at Stanford University who won a MacArthur “genius grant”  for her study of bias. In an interview with TIME, she explains how implicit bias can affect people of all age groups and ethnicities:
“This is something that everybody has to grapple with. We’re living in a society where we’re absorbing images and ideas all the time and it takes over who we are and how we see the world.”
Eberhardt says in her book that biases are shaped by our human instinct to sort the world, and they emerge when we are forced to make quick decisions. Her suggestion for avoiding biased decisions is simple: slow down, and make a shift. Read the full article >> 

Lawsuit filed: Police chief condones white officers’ racism, abuse

ASSOCIATED PRESS — According to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, white police officers in a Washington, D.C., suburb have used racist slurs, circulated text messages expressing a desire to “reinstitute lynching” and put a black face and Afro wig on a training dummy.  Civil rights groups sued Maryland’s Prince George’s County and its police chief on behalf of several current and former officers. The suit accuses police officials of condoning racist, abusive behavior by white officers and retaliating against black and Hispanic officers who complain about misconduct. The suit claims the county’s police chief, Henry Stawinski, has allowed racism to “thrive” in his department since his appointment nearly two years ago. Read the full article >>

A survival guide for being stopped by police

police protest Meredith Walker’s son was already 6′ 4″ and weighed 225 at the age of 16. So, she said, it was time for them to have “the talk”: what to do when he’s stopped by a cop. Ms. Walker explained to her son that “the only right you have…is to make it home alive.”
No matter what’s going on, I tell him, stay quiet. Keep your eyes down. Lower your shoulders. Let the air out of your chest. Get the bass out of your voice. Sound as much like a child as possible. And above all, do not make any sudden moves.   Whatever they ask you to do, I tell him, you do.
It’s tragic that young black people need to know these skills on how to survive an interaction with police. Nonetheless, it’s necessary for survival in today’s world. You can read “A Black Mother’s Survival Guide for her Teenage Son” at The Marshall Project.

How a ‘routine’ stop almost ended a legal career before it began

police lightsBeing randomly stopped and questioned by police is nothing new for black men or women. But it almost ended one legal career before it even had a chance to start. At The Marshall Project, Johnathan S. Perkins writes about being stopped and questioned by police while walking across his law school campus in 2011.
I was walking home from a party on the evening of April 1, 2011, when I was stopped by two officers from the University of Virginia Police Department. They told me that I “fit the description” of a man they were looking for. Soon, I was pushed against their car as they searched my body for weapons and went through my wallet. Humiliated, I complied with their every command.   At the end of the encounter, which turned up nothing, the officers mocked me when I asked for their names and badge numbers. They refused to give me either but followed closely behind me in their patrol car as I hurried home.
Read more about Perkins’ experience at The Marshall Project.

Las Vegas police strike back at Michael Bennett

police lightsNFL star Michael Bennett criticized Las Vegas police who detained him in August, accusing them of excessive force and racial profiling. Now, Las Vegas police are striking back, accusing the Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman of being a liar, a publicity hound and a potential criminal, according to Slate. Bennett’s attorney says he’s considering a lawsuit alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Attorney John Burris says police illegally detained Bennett and used excessive force by pointing a gun at his head. Meanwhile, Las Vegas police have yet to offer an account of what happened in the incident. Bennett has received support from a number of civil rights leaders and athletes after going public with his accusations of police brutality.

Tips to Avoid A DUI Arrest

legal news for consumers To be honest, there’s only one foolproof way to avoid a DUI arrest: Don’t drink and drive. However, there have been instances where people have been arrested for DUI even without a drop of alcohol in their system. If you don’t want to be arrested for DUI for any reason, here are some tips that might help.

Don’t drive if you’re drowsy or exhausted

Never get behind the wheel if you’re feeling the slightest bit sleepy or tired. When you’re in such a physical state, you are likely to have difficulty focusing on the road, and your driving will be erratic. Cops will notice this, and they will pull you over on suspicion of DUI. Then again, there is a laundry list of serious reasons why you shouldn’t drive drowsy and tired. Far too many people have died because someone fell asleep at the wheel, and a DUI arrest would be the least of your problems.

Don’t give cops any reason to stop your car

To be able to take any action against you, the police will need probable cause, which could be several things. Busted lights and turn indicators, shattered windows, and other outward signs that there is something wrong with your car could be reasons enough for cops to stop your vehicle. If you’re driving a car with an expired license plate, that would be probable cause as well. If you run a red light or commit any kind of traffic violation, you’re likely to be pulled over by officers. Never give the police any reason to stop your car.

Be polite to cops

If an officer pulls you over, don’t forget to be polite and cooperative the entire time. Do the opposite, and you will only escalate things, and you could end up being handcuffed and booked for a DUI and a number of other charges, regardless of whether or not you were actually intoxicated.

Invoke the Fifth

Let’s say that you did have one drink, and you were pulled over. The officer will ask you several questions, including some about drinking. If you’re concerned about incriminating yourself, you can always invoke your Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to answer the question. But don’t lie, because that can be used against you in court if ever you’re arrested. Still, if you get arrested for DUI, keep calm, and remember that there are things that you must refrain from doing to improve your chances of beating the charge. Check them out in the infographic below. Infographic provided by Law Office of Michelle Bell

Holding police accountable

police lights By Melanie Bates “Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process.” This profound quote by Thurgood Marshall succinctly illustrates the importance of knowing your rights when encountering the justice system, especially if you are African American. It is undisputed that African Americans are racially profiled and discriminated against consistently by law enforcement, due to implicit bias stemming from the horrendous history of this nation. African Americans are pulled over by police, searched, and arrested at tremendously higher rates than whites. In Washington, D.C., between 2009 and 2011, more than 8 out of 10 residents arrested were African American. The inmate population at the D.C. jail is 89.1% African American, but African Americans only make up 48.3% of the city’s population! These figures are shocking and demonstrate how African Americans must always be prepared to demand equal treatment under the law. Unfortunately, I recently found myself in a situation where I would need to do so. A few months ago, my friends and I were passengers in my friend’s vehicle, a newer model Maserati, when we were pulled over by D.C. police for no apparent reason. We were followed by this officer for at least .25 miles prior to being stopped. We were told the reason for the stop was due to a call about a woman in distress. The officer also stated that my friend failed to use his turn signal. Both of these statements appeared to be unfounded. After the officer collected my friend’s license and registration and returned to the vehicle, he stated that sometimes foxes are mistaken for a woman’s scream. He then issued a warning for failure to signal. My friends and I were outraged. The stop seemed to be an obvious act of racial profiling and a clear abuse of discretion. We were four young African Americans in a luxury vehicle, driving in an upper class neighborhood in the early morning hours. I shudder to imagine how this incident would have ended had my friend not indicated he lived in the neighborhood. Fortunately, the District of Columbia established a mechanism for residents to hold law enforcement accountable. The agency was opened in 2001 and is called the Office of Police Complaints (OPC). The stated mission of OPC is to increase community trust in the District of Columbia police forces by providing a fair, thorough, and independent system of civilian oversight of law enforcement. Residents can file complaints against the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Housing Authority Office of Public Safety within 90 days of an incident. Since OPC opened, it has received approximately 15,830 total contacts with potential complainants and has handled 6,968 formal complaints. ​ I submitted my complaint to OPC via the online form. A few weeks later, I was interviewed by an OPC investigator. My case was then referred to mediation. In mediation, the mediator guides you and the officer through a dialogue about the incident that led to the complaint with the goal of reaching a common understanding. My mediation went surprisingly well. The officer was very cordial. He provided an extensive history of his background and thought process for the stop. He said hindsight is 20/20 and described what he would have done differently. He was clearly briefed and his statements seemed a bit rehearsed, but I think he was genuinely concerned and empathetic about my frustrations as an African American woman in America. The officer’s body worn camera footage did not capture the alleged failure to signal so it was essentially his word against mine. In the end, I agreed to resolve the complaint. It was a transformative learning experience. I was able to hear directly from the officer about his perspective of the incident and he was able to identify what he could have done differently, hopefully leading him to make better choices in the future. I strongly encourage all residents to take advantage of the services OPC has to offer. While it can be an extensive process, the results are invaluable. You will feel empowered and motivated to help others fight for their rights. We must come together and join forces to hold our government accountable to its citizens. Our collective action will effectuate movement towards a more fair and balanced justice system.

Why the NRA didn’t defend Philando Castile

legal news for consumersWhy didn’t the National Rifle Association step up and defend Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer last summer? NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch says it’s because Castile was in possession of a controlled substance. Castile was licensed to carry a gun, and told the officer he had a firearm in the vehicle. Salon has more on the NRA’s response to questions why the organization didn’t do anything in defense of Castile.

Texas cop indicted for murder in death of black teen

TexasA Texas grand jury has indicted a former Dallas area policeman on murder and assault charges in the death of an unarmed black teenager. Roy Oliver is accused of fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, an honor student and athlete who was leaving a house party in a car with other teens in April. CNN has details on the indictment.