WASHINGTON — A Virginia city has teamed up with its local NAACP branch to provide a three-minute crash course in what to expect during a traffic stop. This is a step aimed at bridging the divide between law enforcement and the African-American community following the deaths of black men in police-involved shootings and the recent events of police-targeted shootings that roiled the nation.
Among the advice offered in the new PSA from the Fredericksburg police:
- Be prepared to answer questions about where you’re going or coming from;
- Don’t make any sudden movements;
- And alert officers immediately if you have any weapons in your car.
Another tip: even if you feel like you’ve been mistreated, wait until later to complain, police say in the video. Since 2014, all Fredericksburg patrol officers have been required to wear body-worn cameras and to activate them during traffic stops and other enforcement actions.
“So if you do feel like that you have been mistreated or your rights have been violated, the time to do it is not on the street,” Fredericksburg police officer Ryan Merrell says in the PSA. “We prefer that you comply first, complain second.”
The idea for the PSA, released Tuesday, came after Fredericksburg Police Chief David Nye was invited to attend community meetings at African-American churches in the city, according to Sarah Kirkpatrick, public information officer with the Fredericksburg police.
Police-involved shootings involving African-American men and apparent retaliatory attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge last month spurred concerns about a widening gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“In light of all these shootings that had been happened, the African-American community reached out and invited the police to talk to their congregations and field questions,” Kirkpatrick told WTOP.
The video re-enacts a typical traffic stop and details how officers and drivers should act during the stop.
Hashmel Turner, president of the Fredericksburg NAACP chapter, told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star the police department enjoys a “good rapport” with city residents.