Urban League of Broward and National Bar Association co-sponsors youth seminar entitled ‘Know Your Rights’
Nationally known civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump legal counsel for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, slain by police, joined fellow members of the National Bar Association at the “Know Your Rights” panel discussion co-sponsored by the Urban League of Broward County.
By Charles Moseley
The Urban League of Broward County along with the National Bar Association, America’s largest Black lawyers organization co-sponsored a panel discussion comprising some of America’s leading legal experts and local law enforcement officials during a “Know Your Rights” seminar held at the Urban League’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters, last Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. Students from middle and high schools throughout South Florida also participated in the round table discussion.
“These events are intended to educate our youth about our legal system and create a motivational environment for them to continue on in their academic studies,” said Yolanda Cash Jackson, an Urban League of Broward County board member and a partner at the law firm of Becker and Poliakoff.
Pamela Meanes, president of the National Bar Association: “The National Bar Association is proud to partner with the Urban League of Broward County to offer these events, especially the Know Your Rights Town Hall. During the Town Hall, the attendees learned how the Fourth Amendment (Search & Seizure) of the United States Constitution applies to them, whether it is legal to record the police activity and how they should behave/respond if, and when, they interact with police officers. In addition, panelists addressed issues of inequality and racial bias in policing, the justice system, and violence against members of minority communities.”
The National Bar Association was in Broward County conducting their annual NBA Board Meeting. The panel discussion primarily focused its attention on teaching young people, particularly Black youth how to respond to law enforcement officials should they be stopped while driving or different scenarios involving interaction with police officers. The common term used by many known as “DWB” or “Driving While Black” and other topics such as police rights to search and seize property, and the Constitutional Right to remain silent when questioned by police without legal counsel known as the Miranda Right, were covered during panel discussions.
The issue of law enforcement regarding their interactions with Black and brown males has become a hotly debated topic in the court of public opinion in the wake of several high profile incidents in recent months. These incidents involved the killing of unarmed Black males at the hands of law enforcement officials. Some of the most notable incidents include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and Eric Garner, who reportedly was choked to death by a Staten Island police officer.
As the incidents of killings of unarmed Black males by police officers and other civilians who evoke the “Stand Your Ground’ Laws becomes more publicized in the media, it has been incumbent by citizens, primarily Black and brown youth.
Attorney Daryl Parks along with his law firm partner Benjamin Crump, L.L.C., gained national notoriety as co-counsel for the Trayvon Martin family during the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of the unarmed Black teenager on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.
“We are glad to be here to be involved with the community, especially young people to do our part to help them know what their rights are as it relates to their interaction with the legal system in this community, in our state. We thought it was important to be in this community especially in light of the things which are occurring in our country right now,” said Parks.
The distrust by Black and brown youth toward the police in what traditionally has been tenuous in nature has not been helped due to the recent high profile cases of police shooting unarmed suspects across the country. Statistics also bare out that Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to receive jail time and longer jail sentences than their white counterpart charged and convicted of committing the same criminal offense. There is clearly a racial divide in the country in how the police are viewed by white and Black communities. On the one hand Blacks see law enforcement in an adversarial light while whites are inclined to have a much more favorable opinion of law enforcement, particularly in regard to how police interact within the white community.
Col. Al Pollock represented the Broward Sheriff’s Office to provide some perspective from a law enforcement perspective during the panel discussion comprised primarily of those legal professionals.
“I think that young people here today will come away with some knowledge, with some information that is so important especially to the Black community. A lot of us get a lot of misinformation when we come into contact with law enforcement. A lot of it in the past has been negative so we’re here today to try and correct that.”
Broward County Judge Michael Robinson attended the panel discussion along with his wife Judge Mary Rudd-Robin-son. He reflected on the importance of educating the public, particularly young people who come before his court on a daily basis.
“I think from an educational standpoint and a societal standpoint for all young people to understand their Constitutional Rights, for their own protection as well as the protection of law enforcement. If you do not know your rights you’re jeopardized as well as law enforcement so that young people know their rights and how to protect themselves and for the betterment of all society,” said Judge Robinson.
Eddie Eugene 15, attends William Dandy Middle School. He left the panel discussion having learned a few things about dealing with the police.
“l learned how to stay calm and how to avoid getting into a bad situation. I thought it was a very good experience.”
Dante Hepburn 17, attends Sun Ed High School and shared his thoughts on the panel discussion.
“l learned a lot about what to do and not to do if you get pulled over by the police. I learned that some good tips on how to handle myself in front of a police officer and not flip off at the mouth to be patient, calm, and handle things like a young man.”