Edward Pratt: How to get home from a police stop

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Edward Pratt: How to get home from a police stop

Edward Pratt: How to get home from a police stop | Columnists | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Last Saturday morning, I gathered up my camera equipment and headed to my church to take a few photographs at a program called “A Gathering of Neighborhood Boys.”

 The idea behind the event was to have a young African-American speaker inspire boys from elementary to high school to commit to their education. Another speaker would talk to them about a timely subject — what to do when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer. I was really interested in that discussion.

With the start of school, my pastor, the Rev. W. Marshal Myles, thought the program would be a good idea. I volunteered to take the photos.

I know I surprised some folks there because I am not one to volunteer for church work. Pastor Myles, talking about the event at Sunday service, said, “Even Ed Pratt came out to take pictures. …” Notice the qualifier “even.”

Things went well when a young veterinarian, Raphael Malbrue, discussed his experiences in high school and college. He looked about 15 years old. I think he got his point across.

 Then there was attorney Michael Nunnery. I found him guilty of wholesale distribution of good sense right there in the front row of the sanctuary. Not only was he guilty, but I know that if I had I been a judge, I would have thrown the book at him and sentenced Nunnery to do serious time spreading the gospel of saving lives at other locations.

I don’t know Mr. Nunnery. His presentation and message was a little rough around the edges, but it made a lot of sense.

He explained to the boys and a few young adults at New St. John Baptist Church that if you are stopped by police at any time and at any place, “your goal is to get home alive.”

His recommendation came as the number of headlines grows about confrontations that have ended badly between unarmed African-American men and law enforcement officers.

He encouraged the young men not to give police a reason to stop them. He suggested what amounted to a checklist:

 Don’t have inoperable turning signals or bad front and rear lights.

Don’t speed.

Always wear your seat belt. If you have people in the car, make sure they wear seat belts.

Don’t have darkly tinted windows.

Don’t have drugs, or do drugs and drink alcohol in your vehicle.

 Make sure your inspection sticker and license plate are current.

With all of that done, your chances of being stopped should decrease. But, he said, you may still get stopped, sometimes depending on the kind of day the officer is having or because the officer has “singled you out” for whatever reason.

When you are stopped, he told the boys, “You owe it to yourselves, and your parents and your family, that you get home. … Your goal is to leave that stop alive.”

Obey the officer’s commands, he said.

He even said something that probably bothered a few adults there. He said, had Sarah Bland obeyed the overly aggressive officer that stopped her near Prairie View, Texas, she might not have been arrested and jailed. Bland, according to law enforcement and the county coroner, committed suicide by hanging in her jail cell a few days later.

“Remember, if you don’t like how the officer treated you, you can file your complaints later. … This is not the time to challenge a police officer. It is not time to show how tough you are,” he said.

The police officer comes to work every day with the mindset to get home, by whatever means necessary, after his shift is over, Nunnery said.

There were some people nodding approval of Nunnery’s comments. A couple leaned over and agreed with each other that he was right.

Nunnery admitted that obedience is not violence-proof, but he said, “it’s the best way to get home, and that’s what you want to do.”

I agree.

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.