Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Roadside Rules of Engagement

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*Recently President Donald Trump said “Without police there is chaos,” in response to continuing police brutality protests around the Unites States and in some parts of the world. But if you’re a Black person in America police often bring chaos when they show up to a scene.

There are countless times where minor traffic violations, that should end with a written warning or citation, often end in the deaths of unarmed Black people. Until we remove bully, liar killer (BLK) cops from law enforcement we should try to prevent engagement with them especially during roadside traffic stops where most of these fatalities occur.

Many metropolitan police departments follow similar protocol when it comes to traffic stops: Since they can’t stop everybody, departments devise strategies that allow officers to routinely pull over drivers for minor violations in hopes they might find something else to justify larger fines or maybe an arrest. If a driver is stopped for, say, failure to signal a lane change that officer gets to question the driver close up, observe passengers, see what’s going on in the vehicle and s/he gets to check everyone’s ID including criminal background checks. All this, because the driver didn’t signal a lane change or some other minor traffic violation. While it might be a legal tactic statistics show these traffic stops are used disproportionately against Black and Brown drivers. That’s discrimination. Police reports also show despite a smaller percentage of White drivers being pulled over for minor traffic violations, more White people are found with illegal substances nationwide. And what’s even more egregious is White drivers are more likely to become verbally aggressive with police about why they were pulled over and rarely if ever are they brutalized, bullied or killed as a result of their behavior. Yet, police are more likely to escalate a situation with Black people during these minor traffic stops.

Until police engagement with Black people improves and we redirect our tax dollars to stop funding our own genocide Black people must reduce the chance of being stopped by bully, liar, killer (BLK) cops. I’m not implying that legalized genocide by police is our fault. It’s not. Still we must take extra care to follow every traffic law and to make sure the car you drive has no defaults that would attract unwanted attention by police. Fix broken taillights; replace inoperable headlights; and always wear seatbelts. Still, if you are stopped do so in a well-lit, highly visible area and be prepared to live stream the interaction. Keep the conversation to a minimum. If you feel uncomfortable about how it’s proceeding, ask for a supervisor to be called to the scene. And you might want to let them know you’re live streaming for your safety so they know potentially millions of people are watching. If police won’t hold themselves accountable, your streaming followers will. Power to the people.

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with our questions, comments and speaking inquiries. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TCBStef 

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