Texas Wesleyan’s Black Student Association held “Officer, May I?” in Martin Hall on Tuesday.
The event was attended by about 70 guests, including Texas Wesleyan University President Frederick Slabach.
“Officer, May I?” was meant to educate people on how to interact with police in a way that is safe for everyone, BSA Vice President Trezjon Cothran said.
“Tonight’s event was very significant for our campus and community,” Cothran said. “It was informative, educational and tremendously needed.”
This event was important because it’s BSA’s first step to help lessen tension between police and the public, Cothran said.
The event featured a panel including Wesleyan Board of Trustees member Glenn Lewis, Fort Worth police Sergeant Billie Price and Dr. Wafeeq Sabir, a retired police officer. There was also a question and answer section.
“Although we cannot change the world, we look forward to changing the community with the hope of receiving the proper recognition to make that impact expand,” Cothran said.
If a person is in a situation where he or she is interacting with a police officer that they don’t feel is being handled appropriately, they should first attempt to speak to the sergeant that supervises that officer, Price said.
“If you can’t get anywhere by speaking with the officer’s sergeant then once you’ve been arrested and get out, make a formal complaint to the internal affairs department,” Price said.
Lewis said the event indicates that police interaction with the public is a problem. In a free country like America no one should need to be told how to act.
“You have to have special training to be a police officer,” Lewis said, “but you don’t have to have special training to be a citizen in a free society and a lot of these things you’ve been hearing about today are just common courtesy.”
Lewis thinks that if a person would not fight his peers then the person should not fight law enforcement, either.
“We have to work on our relationships,” Lewis said. “ Nobody should be afraid of police officers and police officers shouldn’t be afraid of you.”
Some officers are afraid of civilians because they perceive something about them without knowing that person, Lewis said.
“Most of it just amounts to treating each other with respect and common courtesy,” he said.
Price suggested sitting down and discussing in groups what the problem could be between police and civilians.
“[It’s important to find] out what their rights are as a citizen and then find out what the police can and can’t do,” Price said.
Sabir suggested that dinner might be the best way to start a conversation.
“If you want to have a discussion with someone, the best way to get them to open up is to have food,” said Sabir, who gave a 30-minute presentation about how to interact with police officers.
Sabir reminded the crowd that just because someone acted a certain way in a Youtube video and something bad happened to them doesn’t mean his tips aren’t useful.
“These are still some general rules,” Sabir said. “You need to understand that we live in a very complicated and often times uncomfortable society, but these are things that generally will get you home at night and get you back to your loved ones.”