New York Civil Liberties Union Hands-Up Don’t Shoot

Dec 4, 2014 by

Ron Isaac – The New York Civil Liberties Union recently gave hundreds of students at a  public high school a two-day seminar in what to say and do if they are stopped by the police, as many students claimed has happened to them without good reason.

They were also given a pamphlet to explain their constitutional rights concerning search and seizure and directions how to file a formal complaint alleging police misconduct.

It is not only for their good that they learn this, but also for the good of all of us who value an equitable and civil society.

Included in the presentation were references to historical and current events involving confrontations, humiliating arrests and tragic shootings, whether accidental or deliberate, whether by criminal neglect or as an action justified technically by police protocol.

It makes sense, provided it is conceived and presented according to its stated goals. But whether it will alleviate or aggravate existing mistrust and perceived abuse of police authority will depend on whether the lessons are information-rich, balanced, and objectively lay out rights and responsibilities or are instead tinged with an anti law-enforcement agenda in the guise of raising consciousness.

When students truly feel they are being targeted by race and victimized by the police, then there follows a reasonable expectation of social unrest and rightly so.  They must know all legal remedies available to them and exercise them fearlessly when challenged. They must stand up for themselves and refuse to compromise their self-respect.

The Civil Liberties Union defends that freedom for us all. Many people who have pegged the Union to be a partisan, liberal ideology-driven  advocacy group and swear that society would be better off without the likes of the Civil Liberties Union have been defended vigorously by them when the issues merited.

But the Union is not responsible for agitators, hustlers and exploiters with ulterior motives who might hitch a ride on the Union’s prestigious wagon and hang on, using the indignation and anguish of the students as kindle to ignite. It is dangerous and undemocratic to automatically give police the benefit of every doubt and to use the word “hero” as a synonym for cop. But it is just as hazardous to indoctrinate categorically persecuted youth in anti-police paranoia.

Wounds will never heal if they are continually ripped open anew.

The Civil Liberties Union emphasizes that the training was not designed to embolden students to break the law and defy the police, but rather to sensitize them to their own rights while developing coping skills to optimize the chance for peaceful resolutions that, up to now, have been too often maddeningly elusive at the cost of the lives of innocent youth, mostly of color.

Their daily lives will be a high-stakes field exam to measure their mastery.

It will be the test of survival.


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