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Whether you are white, black, or any shade in between, talking about how to interact with the police may be the difference between life and death. Those blue and red lights lighting up in your rearview mirror can be a terrifying experience. It is even scarier for a child. It is important that our children are prepared for that moment when they will inevitably interact with the police.

First… what. is the police talk? For my children, the police talk was very simple: “I need to talk to my parents, I need to talk to my lawyer.” There are no exceptions. There are no excuses. No matter what is asked of you, the answer is always the same: “I need to talk to my parents, I need to talk to my lawyer.”

Second, why do you need to have the police talk? Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice. If you have legal questions specific to you and your situation, please seek legal counsel. With that being said, you need the police talk to protect you and your children. It is niave to believe that the police are always the good guys. The Constitution and the Amendments in it provide us with tools to ensure that your little one is not the victim of over zealous policing. Your child is a minor, and they have the right to have a parent/guardian present before answering any questions. Your child is also an American citizen and they have the right to have an attorney present before answering any questions (you as the parent have the same right). Exercise your rights. Even if you are completely innocent, anything you say can and will be used against you.

I repeat… There is absolutely nothing you can say that will help you.

So why do people talk to the police if nothing they say will help them? I have absolutely no clue!

Let’s think about this scenario: Police receive a report of a person throwing rocks at houses off of Jackson Street. The caller gives a vague description that can be used to stop pretty much any black person. The police stop a 12 year old boy walking home with his hoodie pulled over his head. They stop to question the boy:

“Where are you coming from” – Police (P)

“I’m just coming from the store.” – Boy (B)

“Which store?” – P

“The Circle K off Jackson.” – B

“What did you buy?” – P

[At this point the boy starts to get nervous and shifty]

“I bought some candy, but I already ate it.” – B

I’ll stop here. Let’s take a look at the innocent answers from the boy, which are all true. First, the caller said the suspicious person was off Jackson Street. The boy already admitted he was off Jackson Street. Wearing a hoodie and claiming to have gone to the store, the boy doesn’t have anything to show he actually went to the store. He is immediately suspicious to the police. His answers put him along the street, attempting to conceal his identity with his hoodie, and with no visible reason to have been down that street. It sounds ridiculous, but we know it isn’t because it happens in real life.

Lastly… what age is appropriate to have the talk? With both of my children, I started at the age 8. Most black children are believed to be 4-5 years older than they actually are (APA 2014). Start Young!

Want more? The Police Talk will continue with “Should You Teach Your Children to Avoid the Police?” Coming Soon.

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