Educating Teens on Interactions with Police

police_and_teensby James A. Bacon

As part of his broader 21st-Century Policing Initiative, Attorney General Mark Herring has unveiled a program to educate teens on their rights and responsibilities in interacting with law enforcement. The idea is to keep situations from escalating to the point where the safety of either the youth or police is put in danger.

“For more than two years I’ve been having conversations with law enforcement, parents, ministers, community leaders and others about how we can meet our dual goals of making sure that police can keep our communities safe while guaranteeing that everyone is treated fairly and equally,” said Herring in a press release.

“One thing I heard is that many parents, especially African-American and Latino parents, worry about their child reacting to police in a moment of panic and either getting in more trouble or even creating a potentially dangerous situation. If we can help our young people understand their rights and responsibilities, and help them understand what an officer is seeing and thinking during an encounter, we can take some of the fear out of those interactions and make them safer,” Herring said.

The program is the latest module in the AG’s Virginia Rules program delivered through more than 1,500 law enforcement officers, school resource officers, commonwealth’s attorneys, and community leaders. So far in 2016 some 45,000 Virginia students have participated in the program.

Bacon’s bottom line: This program makes total sense to me. Almost every incident involving police-on-citizen violence results from a situation that starts peacefully and spins out of control. Most would agree that police need training to learn how to deal with these situations. But it takes two to tango, so to speak. Young people could benefit from training as well. Hopefully, the new module will be made available to all high school students, not just the stereotypical disadvantaged African-American kids. Young males of all ethnicities are prone to hot-blooded behavior and need to know how to conduct themselves around the police.

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9 responses to “Educating Teens on Interactions with Police”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I guess I don’t really think “educating” teenagers on how to conduct themselves such that they can avoid the use of deadly force against them is a real or a good solution at all.

    That idea says terrible things about our basic policing and it’s not a “training” issue per se – it goes deeper than that – some folks are just not fit for certain occupations and need to be screened BEFORE there are problems and certainly not after a pattern of multiple incidents in the case of some that culminate in a tragedy.

    Police work today is not your fathers police work – it requires truly professional , disciplined, smart – individuals with exceptional judgement of those who do not revert to violence when challenged to the limits of their abilities.

    that’s a tall order but over and over – it becomes clear that we have people doing police work that ought not to be. They have the wrong temperament and themselves lack sufficient self-control to keep tense situations from spinning out of control.

    we seem to have no institutional protocol that is effective in dealing with this issue – judging from the continuing string of adverse events.

    Airline pilots and others whose judgements involve literally life and death of those under their responsibility – face a battery of tests on mental fitness, judgement, how they react when things go wrong – etc… and a good number don’t measure up – and are washed out as they should be.

    Police work also involves actions that literally and directly affect the lives of others and just as there are folks who fail at being able to perform acceptably and safeguard life as airline pilots – so there are folks doing police work – yet we seem to have no real protocols for entrance standards nor performance standards once hired that are in place – and we see the clear results of that failure in the videos now captured.

    Putting the onus on teenagers for a system that is in serious need of reform – right now – is a disservice and the problem is not really going to get solved as long as we continue to delude ourselves.

    I think what Herring is trying to do – is what he can do realistically given the state of denial and really, resistance from the institution.

    You know its funny how we spend time here condemning government and higher ed institutions… for their fiscal sins and then on things that affect real people – real lives – we dither.

  2. “Police work today is not your fathers police work – it requires truly professional , disciplined, smart – individuals with exceptional judgement of those who do not revert to violence when challenged to the limits of their abilities.”. Agreed. But consider why. Could it be that the only folks who apply for this grueling, often boring, highly bureaucratic yet sometimes very physical, very scary, job with anything like decent credentials are ex-military? Could it be that the vets entering the workforce today are not the citizen-soldier draftees of WWII or Vietnam but reflect, on the whole, the professionalism but also the high pressure, high strung, paranoid outlook of our merchant military in Afghanistan, bringing all their PTSD baggage into the patrol car? Are we simply seeing an unbridgable culture-clash at work here?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think those are relevant questions Acbar – no question – but that can’t become an excuse for not having the necessary and required standards for a given profession – whether it be an airline pilot or a fire fighter or a policeman or dozens/hundreds of other 21st century professions where people’s lives are in the hands of those professionals.

      We’ve all seen these videos. You shake your head when you see a man (usually not a woman) – in uniform – lose their cool and go off in an out-of-control way.

      Just one of those guys – caught on video – so totally damages trust and confidence in the police – it reinforces some people’s worst fears.

      Think about the people and their families who are most often the victims in these high profile videos – getting told to “train their kids” to “know how to behave” so that kind of stuff does not happen to them!

      we have gone stupid to the nth degree – if we actually believe this kind of talk has the “desired” effect on the intended audience. I can’t believe we are that tone deaf.

      1. Larry, Herring’s program includes both police training and youth awareness. It mystifies me that you would focus on the one while ignoring the existence of the other.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Jim – I specifically said that it’s NOT training. did you read?

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    We train students how to react in case of a fire or related emergency. Teaching them what to do in an encounter with the police makes sense to me. The AG’s office should also consider posting any videos on its website for the rest of us to view.

  4. JOHN BR Avatar

    A wonderful idea which could save many lives.

    But, until “adults” including certain politicians, irresponsible media, social-justice “activists”, etc. stop their constant incitement of violence and continuously inciting anger among minority youths, such a program cannot achieve its results.

    The youth could learn much from this program, but when they then see people who call for the murder of police getting prime time TV coverage and support by powerful politicians, it will be hard for them to understand and appreciate what they have been taught.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    “training” people how to not get killed by rogue police is _not_ a “good” thing…

    If you want to see even worse outcomes – continue on this track and watch what happens when a few more videos surface…

    you cannot have continuing patterns of people getting beat up and killed – on video and continue to claim it’s “isolated” events that don’t really affect everyone.

    you can go on TV and blame what others are saying – but in the end – when those videos come out – they speak a reality that cannot be denied by folks who basically just refuse to accept the realities that are happening.

    this is not about “training”. It’s about a culture of just refusing to accept what is actually happening.. and pretending that “training” and “education” can fix it.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    there are some people that are not fit to be airline pilots. No amount of training will enable them to overcome other deficits.

    that’s true of people in many professions. Some professions where people’s lives are not at stake – can sustain such people in their ranks.

    But in those professions where people’s lives are at stake – those who are unfit and training will not fix it – they have to be washed out.

    And others that get through initially but in their performance show that they have flaws that obviously training has not overcome – they need to wash out.

    It happens. People don’t get to be pilots and others who do – still lose their jobs.

    One bad pilot can cost a lot of lives and trust in the airline.

    One bad cop in a department of hundreds can wipe out community trust of the organization.

    “educating” kids of how to conduct themselves – with that bad cop is folly. or to put this another way. Educating those kids on how to act with “good” cops is not going to help them when they run into the bad one.

    you say this is rare. I have a stack of reports and now videos which say otherwise.

    we have a problem with the way we screen out folks who ought not to be doing that job and it’s devastating the whole concept of an entire race of people trusting and supporting the police who are there to “serve”.

    if you’re a white guy and you look at this chart – do you believe it or not?

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