Police Workshop Summary
Carver Rec. Center Feb. 22, 2016
- Welcome: Fanny Smedile, President of Sin Barreras
- Structure of the Event: Frank Sullivan, Facilitator and Sin Barreras volunteer
- Current Hispanic Community Experiences in Police Stops
Case of one man who only two days earlier had been stopped by a police officer who, he said, was stopping the driver for an alleged broken taillight. Driver got out of the car and asked to be shown the broken taillight. All taillights were functioning appropriately. Driver was nevertheless ticketed for driving without a license.
Tearful expression of fear from a mother who begged for leniency because she is in constant fear of the next Police stop. Her first stop resulted from being hit by another vehicle – clearly not her fault – but when she was found driving without a license (DWL), she was ticketed. Her second DWL resulted in her being taken to jail leaving her kids unattended for the weekend. As a single mother, she said, she absolutely needs to drive to put food on the family table, and lives in constant fear of another DWL that could easily lead to her summary deportation.
Case of another woman who has been ticketed five or six times for DWL. In one of her court appearances, the judge told her, “You have to stop driving,” but she says flatly she cannot. She has to drive in order to feed her family and knows that any next offense could result in summary deportation. She insists she is a good citizen in all other aspects: pays her taxes, works hard, is a good community member; but she has no choice. She added that she has observed numerous drivers of questionable health and eyesight (old, primarily) driving erratically who have drivers’ licenses but others are denied simply based on their nationality. .
Case of a man’s wife hit by another driver – clearly not her fault. Police officer came to the scene and after conversations with him and her, a difficult conversation since they don’t speak English, and with the other driver—where he sensed he was losing the argument–, the officer told him he could go. A week later, the ticket arrived to his house finding his wife guilty of the accident and requiring payment of a fine.
Case of another lady who was stopped by a car with what she though was police lights and she was aggressively interviewed by several men wearing some kind of uniforms purporting to be police officers. The first question they demanded was to be shown her license. When she said she didn’t have one, they laughed and made fun of her. After some minutes of this verbal harassment, they told her she could go. It seems they were not police officers at all.
Case of a good Samaritan who flashed his lights at a car in front of him which was driving without lights at dusk, only to have the car turn out to be a police car. Interaction with the police officer was unpleasant, he thinks, because he couldn’t explain he was only trying to be helpful.
Case of several drivers stopped by the policeman where the tone of the officer was very angry, aggressive and hostile when the drivers could not speak English.
Case of another man who does have a valid Virginia driver’s license who was involved in an accident that was clearly the fault of the other driver, but when the Hispanic was unable to explain his side of the accident, he was found guilty of the accident because of lack of language.
Case of a Hispanic who suffered a flat tire. When the officer pulled up, he demanded to be shown a driver’s license. When the driver could not show one he was judged guilty and issued a DWL ticket.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Hispanic community believes it suffers from overt racial profiling and lives in constant fear of the police, not so much for fear of a ticket, but for fear the of the deportation that a ticket could easily bring.
- Presentation by Captain Gary Pleasants, Cville City Police, and Lt. Todd Hopwood, Albemarle County Police
Captain Pleasants made reference to the Vision/Mission statement of the Cville Police: to serve the population, to protect, and to improve the quality of life of those who live, work and visit Charlottesville. He knows the Hispanic community is composed of good people; he knows that the community faces a big obstacle in not being able to obtain drivers’ licenses; he knows that fear of the police is a big part of the community perception. [Paraphrasing:] “We are not in the business of checking people’s immigrant status; we don’t want to know, and by law we are not allowed to ask. But we, the police, are not in a position to help you overcome this situation. This is a decision for our lawmakers.”
Lt Hopwood began his presentation in Spanish and switched later to English. He has worked as a policeman in Albemarle County for over twenty-years and started learning Spanish years ago in order to have better communication with Hispanics. [Paraphrasing:] “I want to have more open, less-fear-filled relationship with the Hispanic community. I know bad things are happening in your community that we are not hearing about because you are afraid of us: domestic violence, gangs, drugs, serious crimes, We know you work hard, and you are part of the community. And we understand the difficulty of your getting a license. But the Law is the law.”
Also see the following article from the Daily Progress the next morning:
- Presentation in Spanish and English of the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet
Out-loud, bi-lingual reading of the following content
|Your Rights and Responsibilities
Interacting with Law Enforcement Officials
The first words spoken by either the police officer or the citizen involved in a stop may very well determining the tone of the encounter and sometimes, even the outcome. Here is some information for you to consider when interacting with the police so that your encounter is as safe and respectful as possible
The police re aware of your rights and encourage you to exercise them responsible
This information is not intended as legal advice. This information also does not address every situation of a police stop.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist of obstruct the police even if you are innocent. Keep your hands where the police can see them.
Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. You cannot leave if you are being detained or under arrest. You have the right to know why.
You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent tell the officer.
You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but the law allows police to “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search after the pat down. If you do consent it can affect you later in court.
IF YOU ARE QUESTIONED ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS
You have right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with the police or other agents.
However, if you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.
Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents
IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
Stop the care, as quickly as possible in a safe place. Turn off the car, turn on the interior light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED
Remember, do not make threatening motions or statements to the officers talking to you.
Respectfully ask for and write down the name of the officers with whom you interact.
File a complaint as soon as you are able with the appropriate office or agency.
|Sus Derechos y Responsabilidades
Cuando interactúe con los Oficiales de la Policía
Las primeras palabras habladas por el Oficial de Policía o un ciudadano implicado en una parada pueden determinar el tono del encuentro y, a veces, incluso el resultado. Aquí se le presente información para considerar cuando Ud. interactúe con la Policía para que su encuentro sea tan seguro y respetuoso como sea posible.
La Policía está consciente de sus derechos y le anima a ejercitarlas responsablemente.
Esta información no constituye asesoramiento jurídico o legal. Esta información tampoco explica todas las posibilidades en una parada de Policía.
SI LE PARAN PARA HACERLE PREGUNTAS
Compórtese tranquilo. No corra. No argumente, no resiste u obstruya a la Policía, incluso si usted sea inocente. Mantenga sus manos visibles todo el tiempo.
Pregunte si usted está libre para marcharse. Si el Oficial dice que sí, váyase tranquilamente y silenciosamente. Pero usted no puede irse se le están deteniendo o si esté bajo detención. Usted tiene el derecho de saber por qué está parado.
Usted tiene el derecho de mantener el silencio y no puede ser castigado por rehusar contestar preguntas. Si usted desea seguir en silencio, dígalo al Oficial.
Usted tiene el derecho de negar consentimiento a una búsqueda de sí mismo o de sus pertenencias, pero la ley permite que la Policía busque en su ropa si sospechan un arma. Usted no debe oponerse físicamente. Pero usted tiene el derecho de negarse consentimiento para una búsqueda más detallada después de la búsqueda inicial de su ropa. Si usted voluntariamente permite la búsqueda, los hallazgos pueden utilizarse en la corte.
SI LE PREGUNTAN SOBRE SU ESTADO DE INMIGRACION
Usted tiene el derecho de mantener su silencio y no está obligado a discutir su estado de inmigración o ciudadanía con la Policía u otros agentes.
Sin embargo, si usted no es ciudadano de los Estados Unidos y un agente de inmigración pide sus papeles de inmigración, usted debe mostrárselo si los tiene consigo. Si usted no tiene papeles de la inmigración, diga que usted quiere seguir manteniendo su silencio.
No miente sobre su situación de la ciudadanía, ni muestra documentos falsificados
SI LE PARAN EN SU COCHE
Pare el coche, lo más rápidamente posible en un lugar seguro. Apague el coche, encienda la luz interior, abra la ventana a una posición intermedia, y ponga sus manos en el volante.
A petición de la Policía, enseña su licencia de manejar, el registro y la prueba del seguro de auto.
SI USTED SIENTE QUE NO HAN RESPETADO SUS DERECHOS
Recuerde, no haga movimientos o declaraciones que amenazan a los Oficiales que hablan con usted.
Pida respetuosamente los nombres de los Oficiales con quienes usted haya interactuado y apunta esta información.
Envié una denuncia tan pronto que usted pueda con la oficina o agencia apropiada.
- Question One to small groups: “What do you think of what you heard in the KYR presentation.”
Question Two to small groups: “What suggestions or recommendations can we make to improve the interaction between the Hispanic community and the Police?”
- Feedback from the small groups
- These events are good steps.
- Our people aren’t afraid of tickets; they are afraid of jail.
- The Hispanic is going to continue to drive—we can’t do anything else- it’s essential for work, for school.
- How can the Police collaborate more and advocate so that we can get licenses?
- We hope there can be more mutual respect, both we to the Police and the Police to us.
- There are a lot of us with U.S.-born children, U.S. citizens.
- Many of us don’t understand what the police are saying during a stop: can there be an interpreter [service]? Can there be more Spanish-speaking police?
- Please when there is an accident, can the police not automatically think it is the Hispanic who is at fault?
- If the police can’t speak Spanish, can they at least speak English more slowly?
- Thank you, Police officers, for listening to us.
- Many of us are fearful, but we have to tell the truth if we are asked for licenses and we don’t have them.
- Let us continue this dialogue, so that we can have better communication.
- We Spanish speakers have to learn more English too.
- When we have been stopped two or three times, sometimes we lie to the police and we mustn’t.
- As the Hispanic community, we have to unite to lobby for drivers’ licenses—especially for parents of children who want them to participate in after-school activities.
- We so much want to be allowed to apply for drivers’ licenses.
- When the police talk to us, don’t say “O.K., O.K.” [when we don’t know what is being asked] because that isn’t the way to improve communication.
- Important that the police share the information of this Town Hall with other parts of the community.
- Is it possible to give us a punishment other than a ticket, so that we don’t have to go to court, [and run the risk of deportation.] In Charlottesville, there is the possibility of a “warning ticket,” isn’t there?
- Can the police show more respect during a stop? Be not so angry with us?
- That the police really investigate the cause of the accident, not just believe the English-speakers’ descriptions of events.
- Can the police be more patients with those who don’t speak English?
- Even if the police can’t help us get Virginia drivers’ licenses, could they accept Mexican drivers’ licenses, or International drivers’ licenses?
- Could we be given some non-license document which would allow us to drive?
- The police shouldn’t be stopping us just because we are Hispanic.
- We should ask to see the Governor so that he could give us licenses.
- Observation from the facilitator that Senator Craig Deeds and Delegate David Toscano had been invited to the event and expressed interest in doing so but were forced to decline because they are still in legislative session.
|[Not part of this event but Small Group suggestions from Hispanic participants in the Town Hall meeting in September, 2015]
· Police Depts. to develop an in-house monitoring tool to track how many driving-without-a-license tickets are written by each officer to screen for potential ethnic targeting on the part of a few.
· Designate an Ombudsman entity to give Hispanics a mechanism to voice complaints in their own language about possible harassment by a few ‘bad apple’ officers.
- Suggested next steps
- Invite the governor to hear our complaints.
- Identify other groups that the police could share this information with.
- Continue lobbying for drivers’ licenses.
- Final intervention of Lt. Hopwood.
Lt Hopwood closed his participation with this request: “The Albemarle County police have established a Citizens’ Advisory Committee and I am interested in having some of the leaders here in this room become members of that group. Please, will someone step forward?” Father Edwin Montañez, (a Colombian immigrant and Pastoral Vicar at Church of the Incarnation) responded to the request.
- Close of the event
Fanny Smedile, President of Sin Barreras, closed the event with thanks to the community for coming out in such force (117 attendees), and with particular expressions of thanks to Charlene Green, the Human Rights Officer of the City of Charlottesville, and to Captain Pleasants and Lt. Hopwood.