WASHINGTON - More and more police are using body cameras to document their encounters with suspects. Still, people worry about how to deal and interact with police.
On Thursday night, high-profile lawyers and civil rights activists attended a community meeting in Northwest D.C. as they shared their knowledge about police encounters, how to handle them and what to do if one goes wrong.
Panelists from the meeting talked about several police encounters gone wrong that were broadcast by media outlets around the country and here locally.
The attorneys gave tips for handling these tense encounters with officers, and specifically, if you believed you were being racially profiled.
The biggest point they made is while you do have rights, a fight in the street with a police officer is not a battle most people will win -- even a verbal one. So they say the best way to stand up for your rights is at a later time in court.
“Let’s say it's a police stop -- you have to assume that you have to respectfully, professionally and politely deal with them,” said Billy Martin, a Washington D.C.-based attorney. “Why in the world would you confront somebody who has a handgun on you or has a handgun that might be used on you?”
“People should exercise their right to remain silent,” said civil rights attorney Erik Williams. “I've never known anyone who has been placed in handcuffs or police custody talk themselves out of custody. Often what you say in those police encounters can and will be used against you.”
“In order to challenge what the police officers do or any wrong they have to committed against you, you have to survive the encounter, and you're not going to survive the encounter if you have an attitude,” said Debra Long-Doyle, a former assistant U.S. attorney.
These lawyers also recommend for people to get to know their rights ahead of time so that if their rights are violated, they are more knowledgeable and able to fight back in court.
Another tip they gave is to download the new American Civil Liberties Union’s Mobile Justice app. It will allow people to record a police encounter and protects the videos from being deleted. Videos can be uploaded and sent to the ACLU for review if it is believed there was police misconduct.