Parents Do Your Part

by Felicia Kelly

As a mother, the idea of my children getting pulled over by the police scares me. These days there are many stories we hear regarding the police interacting with the community, some good and some bad. I am a woman of color with children of color and I believe that it is especially important for me to teach my children how to interact with the police and other figures of authority. In general, though, it is imperative for everyone to teach their children the ins and outs of interacting with law enforcement, just as we teach them how to interact with other individuals in the world, especially with persons in a position of authority.

There are many things to teach our children regarding interacting with the police or law enforcement. I would specifically like to focus on my experience based suggestions and formed opinions in teaching children on what to do if they are pulled over by the police.

I started teaching my children what I felt they needed to know about interacting with police officers from the young age of 10 and made a continuing effort to do so well into their late teens.

I focused on framing their perception(s) of law enforcement and the law’s place in their lives. As well as how to interact with them if they are ever pulled over, especially once they were old enough to drive. When they were younger it was more about teaching my children that the police are individuals who are tasked with keeping them safe. Their job is to make sure that they are not harmed and sometimes they have to make sure that they are not harming other people also. My reason for teaching them these things is simple. I wanted to make sure that my children are doing their part to make their interaction with the officers safe for both themselves and the officers.

When they were younger, we used to incorporate fun into these lessons. We would teach them some simple things on interacting with law enforcement. We would follow this up with spontaneous quizzes, woven into conversations, during car rides and sometimes over dinner. Whenever they answered correctly, we rewarded them with sweet treats or something else they enjoyed. It is important to start this learning process at a young age, because it helped them to be comfortable with those lessons now as young adults.

Specifically, here is what I taught them about interacting with the police. When pulled over by an officer, stay calm; if you come off as hostile or combative, that attitude will be met with a hostile and combative attitude. One wants to aim to deescalate any situation. So when you are pulled over, put your car in park and turn off the engine. Always stay in the car until and unless the officer asks you to get out. Keep your hands where the officer can see them at all times. Don’t reach for anything without the officer’s permission and the most importantly adhere to all the requests of the officer.

Growing up, I remember when I was a little girl; I thought that the police were the greatest people in the world, besides my parents. They came to my school and performed for the students. The name of their band was “Officer Friendly Side by Side”. I remember thinking that the police were so cool, the coolest, in fact. My point for sharing that is that not only is it important, in my opinion, for parents to teach their children how to interact with the police, it is equally important for the police to teach children on how to interact with the police and more importantly trust them.

According to your situation and environment you can teach your children what you think they need to know to be safe. It is important to note that, we must fight injustice (if you feel, in any situation that it is unjust) of any sort on a systemic level, but doing so by being combative or hostile on an individual level, especially when you are dealing with an individual in a position of authority, you do not what to become combative and hostile. That dynamic makes it unsafe for you as an individual.

At the end of day I want my children to make it home safe. Parents and officers must do their part.