In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown and, more recently the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo., a brochure is going out to the Pittsburgh community outlining rights, responsibilities and realities of police encounters.
“For instance, you have the right to curse at a police officer, but it’s not a good idea in most cases to do that,” said Tim Stevens, president and founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), “so we’re talking about what your rights are, what your responsibilities are as a citizen and what the reality is.”
The overall goal is to improve community and police relations, which have been strained in recent years. Stevens cited the 1995 police shooting of Jonny Gammage and the more recent case of Jordan Miles, who was beaten by three Pittsburgh Police Officers.
Stevens said part of the issue stems from community distrust of the police, and many not know what do to in police encounters.
“We have an overall description of what to do in any encounter with the police,” said Stevens. “Your rights, your responsibilities, what the police can do, what they should not be able to do, how you should behave, where to put your hands if you’re stopped while driving.”
The brochure is the product of collaboration between B-PEP, the Independent Citizen Police Review Board, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, American Civil Liberties Union of PA, Pittsburgh Public Schools, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and others. Stevens said the brochure will be widely distributed to schools, churches, libraries, community centers and other locations.
“We need to get this message out that kids and adults can put themselves in negative situations that they don’t need to be in that end up in beatings or arrests or worse, we don’t want that to happen,” he said, “we don’t want the police to be injured, we don’t want our citizens to be injured, we don’t want anyone to be injured.”
This brochure is an updated version of a similar one that has been around since the late 1990s.