Photo and story by Mitchell Casteel
The Law and Your Community lecture, hosted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, was held Thursday night at MTSU with great reception. The lecture focused on the laws and rights citizens should know, and how to interact with law enforcement. The event speakers included MTSU criminal justice professor Linda Williams, long-time law enforcement officials Anthony Harris and Edwin Debiew–the latter also a veteran of Operation Desert Storm–and David Cajuste, Delaware police officer who focuses on road stop training. Additionally, fellow members of the MTSU campus police, Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County sheriff’s department were present.
Williams gave the introduction with the important message that “My job is to make sure you get home safe at night.”
Anthony Harris and David Cajuste gave a lecture on what to do when you are stopped during a routine traffic stop, such as making sure your hands are visible to the officer, not running and being respectful.
Harris said he was asked by a student years ago if there was one thing he can change in his career, what would it be? “There was a kid that I saw kept getting kicked out of every school he went to,” he said. “I tried getting him involved with programs and other schools, but he kept getting kicked out. Then one night I got a call that a kid’s body is in a ditch, and I had to go to his house and before I even spoke his mom broke down in front of me.” Harris added that he wished he could have kept that kid alive.
Edwin Debiew got the audience involved with demonstrations such as what police officers think when chasing criminals. Debiew selected members of the audience to run out of the room and later return. Debiew selected different members of the audience this time to act as police officers, asking them what person of the criminal group they would go after first, and why. With mixed answers in the group, one person selected a woman because “she was more sensitive.” Another picked an African American because “he was dressed in dark clothes and looked suspicious.” Debiew then explained what complicit bias was, and that every police officer has their own prejudices.
Debiew also explained what not to do when encountering police officers, such as running away and not showing your hands.
After the lecture and demonstrations, the speakers had a Q & A with the audience.
One student asked, “What can I do to get my mother to trust and respect police?” The officer’s response, “If you can show her you trust and respect the local police, then she will see that you do, and she can do the same.”
Another student asked, “Why do you pull a gun on 14, 15, 16-year-old kids?” Multiple officers responded, and one gave a demonstration of the notion of “action versus reaction.” They collectively stated that they don’t know if the other person has a gun–real or fake– and they have to act quickly.
A student asked, “What should I do, in a rural area, where I get pulled over but I’m not sure the officer is real or fake?” An officer answered saying “Call 911, and tell them your exact location and ask if this a real stop. They will tell you if they have an officer behind you. Also, turn on your hazard lights to let the officer acknowledge that you are aware they are behind you and you are not trying to drive away.”
The ending message of the event echoed the beginning.
“Get home safely every night.”
To contact News Editor Savannah Meade, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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