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'The Talk': Black families detail importance of preparing kids for possible interactions with police

Recent situations with law enforcement have renewed the need for some Black families to have tough conversations with their children.

Nationwide, and right here in Columbus, we’ve seen or heard about encounters with law enforcement that have turned deadly. 

One year ago on Tuesday, George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during an arrest involving three other officers.

In December 2020, former Columbus police officer Adam Coy shot and killed Andre’ Hill as Hill walked out of a garage holding a cell phone.

These situations have renewed the need for some Black families to have tough conversations with their children.  

The conversation about racial stereotypes when interacting with law enforcement is the hardest, but most important conversation John Yates said he’s had to have with his four sons. 

“Me and my wife, we’re that family that says it two or three times, so it’s just not a one-time conversation. I couldn’t imagine… I couldn’t imagine if it was one of my kids,” said Yates.  

Tasha Booker and her son Logan said they can also relate.  

“We started having these conversations probably around seven or eight. And so, we started having the conversation even about how he interacts and plays with other children,” said Tasha Booker.  

Logan Booker said the conversations are frequent.  

“You got to take precautions with what you do, put your hand on the dashboard, stay on the steering wheel. You have to make sure you don’t have any weapons. Just do what they tell you, don’t refuse or be disrespectful,” said Logan Booker.

Whether it’s cooperation or avoiding interactions with law enforcement, these families say the scary truth about it is survival. 

Even people enforcing the law understand the need to have “the talk."

“To be blunt and honest the conversation is driving while Black, to think that it doesn’t happen we would be foolish,” said Columbus Division of Police Sgt. James Fuqua.

Fuqua said what helps in these encounters is knowing your rights and simply complying.

“There is a certain level of professionalism that you should display even as the driver, even if you’ve felt like you’ve done nothing wrong, and I know that’s so hard but we’re talking about the potential matter of life and death,” Fuqua said.

Judge Jaiza Page oversees a courtroom in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas-General Division. 

“The initial encounter is not the ideal best time to argue your case. That is typically what the legal system is for,” Judge Page said.

Judge Page said it’s also important to know which specific laws apply in your area. She said searching and knowing the Columbus City Code or the Ohio Revised Code can help people decrease their likelihood of being encountered by law enforcement. 

“Understanding your rights and what type of encounters because there are different types of police encounters. Tell yourself to remain calm in the situation to answer questions that the officer has asked you,” Page said.  

David Thomas, a criminal defense attorney, said your rights are important in any situation with police. 

“Lawyers are in a much more even footing with police in a courtroom than anyone is during an encounter out on the street,” he said. “You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in certain spaces, such as your home, your car, your personal possessions,” Thomas said.  

The parents 10TV spoke with both said they don't anticipate these conversations stopping any time soon.

“We want to make sure that their license plates are renewed every year in advance,” said Yates.  

“Every parent who said I’m not going to nag, I’m not going to push and then something happens to their children out of their watch… they regret, 'boy, I wish I would’ve said,' or 'I wish.' I don’t want that to be us,” Tasha Booker said.