Online Forum Aims to Educate Young People on Interaction With Police

About 40 people participated in the event, according to Project Unity

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Dozens participated in a virtual forum aimed at educating young people on traffic and pedestrian stops.

The event was co-hosted by Dallas-based Project Unity and the Dallas chapter of the National Black Police Association. Sgt. Sheldon Smith is president of the Dallas chapter and a 26-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department.

The event was geared toward young drivers who Smith said may not have as much experience with law enforcement interaction. The virtual event, held on Zoom, was designed as an open forum, where participants were encouraged to ask questions about traffic and pedestrians.

Featured speakers included Smith,  Sr. Cpl. James Petty and Sr. Cpl. Tracy Morgan of the Dallas Police Department. They discussed the rights drivers and pedestrians have when interacting with police with the goal of peaceful resolutions.

Smith said these were conversations he has had with his own children.

“I’ve been a policeman as long as they have born, but as a parent, you have to have that conversation with your kids because you may not be in the car when they’re actually stopped by a policeman,” he said. “For own my kids, I’ve always told them, any interaction with law enforcement, feel comfortable in doing so…articulate your concerns but cooperate and try to have a positive interaction.”

Smith said the conversations were also helpful for active police officers who already undergo training when it comes to traffic and pedestrian stops. The goal, he said, was to continue to build a relationship between the police and the public.

“The traffic stop is not the place to actually confirm or deny your innocence or guilt. The court is the place to do that, and we teach that. If you have questions and you have concerns then the citation is not an admission of guilt,” he said. “If the officer is rude to you then we also provide guidelines on what to do if the officer is rude to you, you have several things that you can do. You can ask to speak to a supervisor. You can go to internal affairs and file a written complaint against the officer to get into a confrontation with the officer that’s doing the traffic stop is not actually conducive to you driving away happy.”

According to Project Unity, about 40 people participated Saturday.

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