DEAR HARRIETTE: I am having a tough time talking to my children about being law-abiding citizens while there are police officers who are not protecting and serving the community. My son is terrified; he feels like he might become a victim of police violence, and I worry for him as well because I cannot follow him everywhere he goes.
I am hesitant to tell him that I was pulled over by the police in a recent mandatory check. We are living in turbulent times, and I want to offer some wisdom on how to talk to police officers in a respectful manner. Any wisdom will be greatly appreciated. -- Protect and Serve, Seattle
DEAR PROTECT AND SERVE: This is one of the most provocative and important questions of our time, made worse because it often ignites over racial lines. Obviously, there is too much violence in general in our country, and that includes police shootings and killings of innocent citizens.
I do not believe that most police officers are trigger-happy, or that most consciously target different groups of people. I do believe that we are all living in a world where unconscious bias pollutes people's thinking and opinions about others. What should we do? Find out if your local precinct has any programs where they engage neighbors and children. Learn if there are any opportunities for local police to connect with the community in positive ways. Take your son to participate in any of these events. Humanizing both officer and citizen may help to soften the tensions that are raging throughout our nation. The goal, after all, is mutual respect.
Engage your son in the political process. Help him learn about citizens' rights and how to address lawmakers to help change the laws of the land.
Teach your son how to handle himself if he is approached by a police officer: Be friendly and calm, with no quick movements and total compliance with whatever the officer asks; if you think it would be helpful, suggest he say a prayer. It is essential that anyone who engages a police officer be as unemotional and clear-thinking as possible. Do not argue or allow yourself to get upset. Sadly, for too many people, compliance has still met with a bullet, so your son must be extremely cautious.