ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Midwest Opinion: Everyone should have The Talk

Around America, there's much discussion about black parents having The Talk--the dialogue where they sit down with their youngsters, especially their sons, and explain how crucial it is to cooperate with police in order to avoid getting shot.

Around America, there's much discussion about black parents having The Talk-the dialogue where they sit down with their youngsters, especially their sons, and explain how crucial it is to cooperate with police in order to avoid getting shot.

But here's the thing:

Everybody should have The Talk.

Including parents of black daughters. Including parents of white sons and white daughters. Including parents of everyone else.

And including non-parents, too, who should look in the mirror some morning and have "the talk" with themselves.

ADVERTISEMENT

So: Grandparents? Elected officials? Celebrities of all races, colors and creeds?

Police officers themselves?

Absolutely.

Every American should know how to behave in the presence of law enforcement. That's because every American-including police officers, including FBI agents-will one day find himself or herself on the receiving end of a gaze from a suspicious police officer.

And in those situations, it's vital to follow key rules.

That's because of three things:

1. Police officers have guns.

2. Police officers are authorized to use force to get compliance, and deadly force when confronted by what the officer thinks is a deadly threat.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. See 1 and 2.

Because in such situations, you don't want there to be any misunderstandings. Instead, you want the officer to know in his or her bones that you pose absolutely no threat.

And that means understanding the officer's concerns-and adjusting your behavior to them.

That's The Talk.

Now, here's why even silver-haired grandpas should murmur it to themselves, should they happen to be pulled over on their way home from their Sons of Norway meeting.

For police officers, every stop-every answer to a call-marks the start of a potentially deadly encounter. That's just the nature of police work: You're summoned to a domestic dispute. You knock on the door.

And the next thing you know, the door explodes outward, because the person inside just blew it away with a shotgun.

Or you stop a motorist who by stereotype seems to pose little threat-a grandmother, say, or a mom with three kids in the car. She fishes around in her purse, ostensibly for her license. "Yes, officer, I have it right here," she says. Then she whips out a pistol and starts blasting.

ADVERTISEMENT

Far-fetched?

You'd think so; but such incidents happen. More important, they happen often enough that police train for them. They train for them in simulators that present situations exactly like the above.

That leaves every officer with two huge takeaways:

First, be wary on every call.

Second, don't trust stereotypes. The person whom you think is a likely threat, may prove to be law enforcement's best friend. And the person who at first seems harmless could be the one who shoots you dead.

That's why everyone should have The Talk. Because police are trained to be mindful of, watchful of and on alert about everyone.

Do officers perfectly carry out these lessons? Of course not. They're human; and if, for example, officers continually use excessive force against stereotypical "threats" such as young black men, police departments and society must respond.

But that's a different editorial. Today's editorial is about The Talk.

Have it. Learn it. And live it, whatever your race or creed:

Keep your hands where the officer can see them. Do as the officer instructs. Don't make sudden movements that might be misinterpreted.

In other words, see yourself through the officer's careful, watchful and understandably suspicious eyes. And in so doing, hugely boost your odds of freely going on your way.

What To Read Next
The Minnesota State system request for $350 million in additional funding would freeze tuition and train more desperately needed workers.