Panel addresses Loyola students on dealing with police
Detroit — A Detroit detective gave this advice Monday to a group of high school students: Don’t ride with anyone who’s carrying a gun, has drugs or has an active arrest warrant.
Brian Fountain of the Detroit Police Department also offered tips to the group of about 80 teens at Loyola High School on what to do if they get pulled over by a officer. Among them: Keep your hands on the steering wheel, don’t make any sudden movements, and be polite.
Fountain also warned students not to get out of their vehicles and argue with police because officers are thinking about their own safety when conducting a traffic stop. A Detroit police officer was recently shot during such a stop, he said.
“We, the law enforcement officers that stop you, are just as nervous as you all are at a traffic stop,” Fountain said.
The detective spoke as part of a panel at the Catholic school on how to safely engage with police. Also participating were a criminal defense attorney, a 36th District Court judge, and a deputy chief in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office.
The group discussed the expectations of police officers when they make a traffic stop, the rights of motorists, as well as what to do if a police officer acts inappropriately.
“If you have a problem with police, your fight is not on the streets, your hope is to try to get home,” said Michigan Children’s Law Center attorney Robyn L. McCoy. Monday’s event was the eighth event of its kind held by McCoy.
She emphasized safety, mentioning a number of young African-American males who were shot by police, like Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was playing with a pellet gun. Once a student gets home safely, McCoy said, then there are legal resources available to them to address police misconduct.
Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Michael Riordan said instances of police officer misconduct are “few and far between.”
“It’s a tough time to be a police officer these days,” he said. “There have been a number of high-profile cases of police misconduct putting pressure on good police officers.”
Defense attorney Todd Perkins told students that beyond giving their name to an officer, they have Fifth Amendment rights to not give any further statements, and he advised them not to admit guilt.
One of the students who attended, Loyola sophomore Gahaad Goodwin, 15, of Detroit said he once was pulled over by a narcotics officer. He said the discussion was a useful reminder of his rights.
The teen also said he appreciated the panelists emphasizing that not all police officers are bad; Goodwin has two uncles who are officers with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“A lot of people look at officers as bad because of social media, but it’s not like that,” Goodwin said. “I’m a believer that all cops aren’t bad.”