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Baltimore area defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon speaks at seminar on how to stay safe during police stops.

A panel of experienced trial lawyers explained to a near capacity audience at Empowerment Temple how to successfully survive being stopped by the police. The crowd had assembled, Sept. 30, for a seminar titled ‘C.O.P.S.: Conscious Operations during Police Stops,’ billed as an event for youths and parents to learn the dos and don’ts of police encounters.

Organized by the JustUs Ministry in conjunction with the Power Nation Youth Ministry, the event consisted of a panel of experienced civil and criminal defense attorneys explaining best practices for African Americans who have been stopped by the police.

In early remarks, area defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon spoke to the undercurrent of the event.

“It’s funny that we’re here tonight learning how to deal with police, but it really should be the other way around. We shouldn’t have to equip you with special knowledge, ‘how to deal with police;’ they should be equipped with special knowledge, ‘how to deal with the public.’”

No one disagreed with the sentiment, and the panelists reiterated throughout the event that, while their advice may seem over the top in terms of the level of self-restraint asked of someone faced with a hostile police encounter, it was intended to ensure his or her safe return home.

“One of the things that’s most important to remember is to survive,” said attorney and panelist Ivan Bates.  “And what do we mean by that?  When the police come to you—they have that attitude, they’re accusing you of things, they’re in that position to try to fight—leave your ego at home.  At that moment and time, say ‘yes sir’, ‘no ma’am.’  Leave your ego at home so you can go home.”

Further advice was given, referred to as ‘survival skills’ by the panelists.  Gordon explained that one of your best tools during a police stop are the video and audio recorders on your cell phone. Advising the audience that they turn their recorders on as soon as they see police lights in their rear view mirror, Gordon said that, because one has the right to film police officers in a public place when engaged in their public duty, it is not necessary to inform the officer that they are being recorded.

D.C. area attorney Brian McDaniel made a plea to the crowd that they not take up the habit of finding excuses out of what is among the most dreaded of civic responsibilities: jury duty.

“Imagine if all of you had the opportunity to serve but didn’t serve and then you had . . . everybody from (mostly wealthy and White) upper Northwest D.C. who were serving . . . that is often times what we’re left with and then we wonder why it is that we don’t get the justice that we’re looking for when these matters are coming to court.”

There were also moments of levity, such as when host Douglas Evans read a question from an audience member asking when police are authorized or likely to approach with a drawn weapon.

“I can answer the second part,” Evans deadpanned. “Likely? PG County.”

Another acknowledgment that police violence against Blacks had become a norm in the African American community.  The audience laughed.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor at Empowerment Temple, appealed to the youth in the audience as he worked to bring the seminar to a conclusion.

“I want to really champion for our young people, because we have a major gap of young, emerging civil rights attorneys.  We need more young people who are going into that field, not just to defend our rights but really to defend the law so that there’s really liberty and justice for all.”

ralejandro@afro.com