Getting pulled over while Black by the police is usually uneventful. The average Black person dealing with a police stop over does not make the news. They are usually given a warning or a ticket and sent on their way. But there are times when this is not the case and the unusual happens. Driving while Black is something that should be any different than driving while white. Sadly though, in the news young Black men and women are getting killed at an alarming rate. I decided to write a guide for driving while Black. As silly as it seems, I do adhere to this guide. I can police my own community and I try to talk to police as little as possible but odds are everyone will get pulled over one day. There has never been a time since I have been driving that I have not feared for my life when being pulled over. This is the Black guide to getting pulled over by the police.
The majority of Black people have always had a distrust for law enforcement. Much light has been shed on police brutality with the Black Lives Matter movement but still a minority of police officers have been vilifying Black people for many decades before this one. Many parents are in fear, rightfully so, every time their child leaves the house to drive somewhere. There is no full proof plan for surviving a traffic stop. I wrote this guide because this is what I do, and this is what I will instruct my Black children to do when they are closer to the age of driving. With technology moving the way it is, my children may never get the chance to drive a car due to computer car driven advancements but nevertheless they will still be Black and in a car. Here are a few pointers for young Black and Latino drivers:
Pull Over in a Well Lit Area
This does not mean that you have to drive for miles until you get to a gas station but it does mean that you should not risk getting pulled over in a dark alley. When the officer puts his lights on continue driving until you can stop under a street lamp or a business parking lot. If the sun is still out make sure you pull to the side of the road on a main street. Turn your car off and put your hazard lights on once you have stopped.
Turn Off Your Car
Turn off your car when you are pulled over. This alleviates the idea that you are a flight risk. To stay on the side of caution, place your keys on your roof once you have turned off your car. This will further promote the idea that you have nothing to hide and that you are not going anywhere until the traffic stop is complete. This step may seem like going to far but your life is precious and there is nothing that you should not be doing to ensure that you will make if home to your loved ones.
Keep Your Hands Up
The first thing to do when the police pull you over is to put your right hand on the steering wheel an put your left hand out the window already with your license, insurance and registration papers. If you work for the state or have a public worker job, hand them this ID as well with the others. Always keep your work ID in your car if you are a public worker like a teacher, fire fighter, or military employee.
The police officer is not your friend. Police officers in America serve us and always under appreciated. I always respect anyone that is running toward the problem while everyone else is running away. When I see fire, I head in the opposite direction, while fire fighters head toward it. Same thing with police officers. All that said, the police are not your friends. Do not chit chat with them. Answer their questions and do not offer any more information than needed. A simple, “yes, officer” or “no, officer” is all that is usually needed. The Police officer does not care about your sob story or how much money you do not have.
These are the procedures that I implement every time I am pulled over. Do I feel that in American people of color should have to do this, no, of course not. This guide is written for the climate that we live in, not what I wished the climate could be. The most important thing to take away is to always have your paperwork in order. In many states, police officers are automatically alerted when a car is driving near them with an out of date registration. This is just one reason to get pulled over which could lead to tickets, arrests or death, sadly. Police officers are needed, the vast majority of them protect and serve us but the small portion that are rogue are too dangerous to tangle with.
Why even take a chance getting pulled over in the first place. Keep all of your documents current. If your license is up for renewal and a picture is required be sure to wear something professional.