A high school in New York City is now teaching its students how to interact with law enforcement officials when faced with searches and seizures.
Authorities of East Side Community High School in Manhattan sought the help of New York Civil Liberties Union to conduct a two-day workshop last week.
The hourlong training sessions focused on the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and Fourth Amendment rights pertaining to the practice. For instance, NYCLU representatives advised kids to keep calm and always keep their hands out of their pockets during questioning but they also told students they are not legally obligated to show ID or consent to searches.
"For example, it they were to ask for an ID, I would give them an ID, no questions asked, but at some point if I'm gonna be frisked for a certain reason, I would ask for a warrant because even if they are just patting me down, they need a warrant to search something pertaining to me," one student told NY1 Local News.
At the end of the program, attendees were given “What To Do If You’re Stopped By The Police” pamphlets.
“We’re not going to candy-coat things — we have a problem in our city that’s affecting young men of color and all of our students,” Principal Mark Federman told The New York Post, adding the idea of the training session followed requests by students.
“It’s not about the police being bad,” he added. “This isn’t anti-police as much as it’s pro-young people . . . It’s about what to do when kids are put in a position where they feel powerless and uncomfortable.”
Some law-enforcement experts, however, believe that these sessions are “doling out criminal defense advice” and portraying cops as “public enemy No. 1.”
“It’s unlikely that a high school student would come away with any other conclusion than the police are a fearful group to be avoided at all costs,” Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the Post.
President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association Ed Mullins echoed Donnell’s concerns.
“Education is the key, but are Civil Liberties going in with an agenda or to educate? I think we deserve equal time and should have the opportunity to follow up with the same platform to explain exactly what police do and what we think is the best way to deal with the police.”
In the light of incidents like Mike Bown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, such sessions are undoubtedly much-needed for young people, but it’s equally important for law-enforcement authorities to follow suit and provide similar training to their officials as well.