KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Violent encounters involving police are back in the headlines along with gripping video in the moments after a man was shot during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Many Americans are questioning how they interact with officers.
Knoxville Police Department and groups that work with young black men in Knoxville have been talking about that same issue, well before the latest shooting. They think it’s a conversation we need to start in East Tennessee.
At 14, Michael Darden isn’t driving just yet but he’s already learning some things just in case.
“Pretty much be safe and if you were to be pulled over, just be respectful to the officer.”
It’s lessons like that his mentor, Rick Staples, has been giving for years to teens a part of the organization 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville.
“One, you’re an American and you have rights. Your skin color does not and should not put you in danger,” said Staples.
Many hope all of us come together and start a candid conversation.
“I believe away from the media, behind closed doors, and just some truths come out. This is why we fear you, we feel like we’re being targeted. And then from a police officer’s perspective, this is what my job entails, this is how I want to interact with you,” said Staples.
To make sure interactions don’t go south, Clarence Vaughn with the Police Advisory and Review Committee, says new recruits with KPD receive diversity training.
“A part of the training focuses on how to deal with different cultural backgrounds,” he said.
Police say if you are pulled over to stay calm, roll your windows down, keep your hands in plain sight like on the steering wheel, and follow instructions.
“We tell people comply to complain later,” said Vaughn.
“If a driver is getting stopped and they don’t like the police officer they can always say, ‘Will you please get your supervisor out here,'” said Captain Ronald Green with the Knoxville Police Department.
Everyone in East Tennessee is anxious and wanting change.
“It’s kind of like a wake-up call. That it can happen to any one of us really,” said Darden.
The Police Advisory and Review Committee investigates each claim against a police officer. They talk to the driver and the police captain, then follow up by watching the dash or body cam footage to see if any policies have been violated. The driver is a part of this process.
Knoxville police say if you have a registered firearm in your car, tell the officer right away, keep your hands visible on the steering wheel and ask for instructions.