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Protect and Serve or Shoot to Kill- Generation Y Takes on Police Brutality

The Lyrics from the 1988 song titled “F*** The Police” by NWA states, “But don’t let it be a black and a white one, cause’ they’ll slam you down to the street top, black police showing out for the white cop.” Some would say NWA’s vulgar expression of dislike and disrespect for the police publicized the negative stigma of law enforcement and authority figures in the black community. “My definition of police brutality is when law enforcement takes the law into their own hands, to abuse, belittle or fatally wound a citizen to prove a point of power and control,” said Danika Coffee a 28-year-old African-American mother from the East Bay.


It’s 2015 can you insure that your children are safe from those who were hired to protect and serve?

As a mother of a 5-year-old son and former co-worker of the late Oscar Grant, Coffee shares her opinions on how she views most police. “They get away with so much because the title they hold can legally back them up without being punished for the brutality they have caused,” Coffee stated. Police brutality has become more prevalent in the media after the deaths of Oscar Grant, shot and killed by an officer at age 22 in 2009.  Tryavon Martin, shot and killed by vigilante neighbor at age 17 in 2013.  Michael Brown, shot and killed by and officer at age 18 in  2014.  Eric Gardner choked by an officer and killed at age 29 in 2014. The hands of law enforcement killed all four of those black men and each officer was acquitted of all charges.

 “I will most definitely make sure my son knows that the police are people just like us, and just like we have bad days so do they, but they have the legal power to control any situation, unless you know your rights. I will make sure as my son grows older he will be judicially informed,” Coffee concluded.

These four cases helped to ignite the already negative stigma behind law enforcement by causing riots, looting and protesting.So what’s a mother to do when past circumstances make it hard to trust the police? What’s law enforcement to do when they’ve lost trust and respect from the community they serve?

Officer Barry Parker, Gives insight on the realities of working in law enforcement in the Bay Area in this exclusive interview. Officer Parker shares that police are average people who have the same emotions and challenges as anyone else, therefore it is imperative to make wise decisions once confronted with law enforcement.




A criminal prosecutor from California requesting to stay anonymous answered a few questions to help parents instruct their children on the best ways to behave with interacting with law enforcement.


Specific advice for parents:

“I would recommend mothers to teach their children to be respectful and calm when dealing with a police officer.  When speaking with a suspect an officer does not know whether the person they are talking to is mentally ill, on drugs, or in possession of a weapon.  As a result, officers are sometimes equally as scared as the suspects they are dealing with.  The majority of police brutality cases arise from situations where the officer did not feel safe.  Therefore, mothers should teach their children not to curse at or fight with an officer, but instead be polite and speak to the officer with respect, even if they feel they are being wrongfully accused.”


“I’d also suggest mothers teach their children to record all interactions with police on their phone.  Doing so will prevent an officer from lying or twisting the facts in their favor.”


” I’d suggest mothers teach their children to not incriminate themselves when speaking with police.  So many suspects incriminate themselves with their words by admitting to parts of a crime while an officer is speaking with them.  For example, if you are driving under the influence do not voluntarily tell the officer you just had a few drinks at a bar.  Why are you making the officer’s job easier for them? By admitting to drinking, all you are doing is giving the officer more “Probable Cause” to arrest.  Therefore, mothers should teach their children to keep their mouth shut and tell the officer that you will not talk until you have a lawyer present.”


Know Basic Laws:

“Young men should know the basic laws about search and seizure law.  In order for an officer to lawfully stop a person, the officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime or traffic violation has been committed.  If the officer does not have a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is afoot, then the person they stopped is free to leave. For example, if an officer sees a young man run a stop sign, jay walk or if that young man matches the description of a suspect, the officer can legally stop or briefly “detain” that man to conduct an investigation. But, however, if a man is walking down the street and he has given the officer no reason to believe he has committed a crime, nor does he match the description of a suspect, the officer does not have a “reasonable suspicion” to detain that man.  Such a detention is illegal unless the man gave his consent to be stopped.”


Don’t feel obligated to give consent:

“Consent to stop or detain a person can be easily given.  If an officer sees a man walking down the street and simply asks him “can I speak with you for a second,” and the man agrees to speak with the officer, that person has just consented to being stopped.  That same person can always revoke their consent and stop talking to the officer.  But, be careful because if while consensually speaking with the officer the man states information to give the officer a “reasonable suspicion” that he has committed a crime, the officer may detain the man without his consent.” “Therefore, if a person does not “consent” to be detained and an officer does not have a “reasonable suspicion” as the basis of a stop or detention, then the person being stopped is free to leave and may be the subject of an illegal detention if an officer refuses to let him leave.”


Don’t give an officer probable cause:

“The standard for an officer to arrest a person is higher than the standard to detain a person.  In order for an officer to legally arrest someone they must have “probable cause” to believe that person committed a crime.  In other words, an officer must have apparent facts supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that the accused person has committed the crime.

“For example, if an officer sees a car swerving in and out of a lane, that officer has a “reasonable suspicion” to believe that person is not driving safely and is in violation of the California Vehicle Code.  Once the officer has a reasonable suspicion, he may legally detain or pull that driver over to conduct an investigation.  If during the investigation the officer smells the odor of alcohol on the drivers breath, sees the drivers eyes are red and watery, hears the driver has slurred speech and the driver admits to drinking alcohol, that officer now has “probable cause” to arrest the driver for driving under the influence.”


Expand your professional network:

Finally, “The best resource to remain aware of the current laws is to have a friend or family member that is an attorney.  Because there are so many different areas of law and each area of law has hundreds of laws it is very difficult to stay on top of changes in the law.  If you have a friend or family member who is a lawyer you can always turn to them for help.”


“Injustice between law enforcement and the communities they serve has been negatively impacting America well before NWA’s 1988 controversial song titled “F*** The Police.”


A way to change this perspective is for the community to not only educate their children on how to behave when interacting with members of authority, but to also begin to make changes in the political arena by voting and challenging our children to become authority of the governing society.


By: Angelisa Ross
Videography: Antone Harrison

Featured Image by: Wellington Sinape 

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