Black parents understand the need to have “the talk”. Many start to talk to their children at a surprisingly early age. These talks cover many things, including racism, discrimination, and how to minimise risks and try to keep themselves safe. The conversation black parents make sure they have with their children, especially boys, is one about the police. This is important due to the fact that black people are five times more likely than white people to have force used on them by the police in the UK. Figures for England and Wales also show nearly one in three incidents involving tactics such as stun guns targeted BAME person.
Black parents know their children are more likely to come into contact with the police, due to stereotypes, over-policing of black communities, the disproportionate experience of poverty within black communities. Earlier this year, official figures revealed that black people were nine times more likely to be stopped by police than white people in England and Wales.
This knowledge is not so clear for white parents of black teens, as many have grown up not having to be aware of the impact of race and racism. So it is important that adopters and foster carers when caring for black and ethnic minority children embark on a process of informing themselves.
The importance of parents, especially white adopted parents preparing their children.
Parents need to talk to their children about the police. Not to see them automatically as enemies but to help them to successfully negotiate contact with the police, with a hopefully positive outcome. Parents need to talk about racism regularly, not just as a one-off but as a regular source of discussion.
What are your/your child’s rights?
The police are allowed to ask to see the drivers driving licence, insurance and MOT certificate. Don’t worry if you don’t carry these documents in your car—you’re allowed up to a week to take them into your local police station. (Though, if you don’t do this within the allotted time, you’ll be breaking the law).
Here are the main rights that protect you:
- the officers searching must use the stop and search powers fairly, responsibly, and with respect for people without discriminating
- if English is not the child’s first language, and they do not understand why they have been stopped, reasonable steps must be taken to provide them with information in their own language
- the officer must keep the search time to a minimum
- the search must take place near where they are stopped, except in instances where moving the driver would protect their privacy
- the officer does not have the power to detain them in order to find grounds for a search
It is important to explain unconscious bias to your child and how people of all races grow up to be given very negative perceptions of certain communities. This is not to excuse but to give context to the attitudes they may show. I am a huge supporter of the police in lots of ways, but I am definitely committed to Keep driving license in the visor, when in the car. You can also encourage them to use apps to phone to record interaction
Talk to your child about reducing the likelihood of them being stopped. They are advised not to take the risk of drinking and driving. To observe driving rules, including signaling, passenger numbers, and speeding. It is helpful to also talk to your child’s white siblings if they have them so they also understand. It might be an idea to suggest they step in to be supportive of the young person or their friends, in the event they are stopped.
Your children would benefit from travelling with a phone, water, and know their route. Suggest your child uses their phone to record the event. It is helpful to record the whole encounter and can be helpful to put on when the car is stopped.
Advise your child to pull over safely when asked, keep their hands in view, be polite and as the person who has been stopped to always keep calm.
Advise your child that they are best not to move away until the police have stopped and have gone.
Make a big show of taking down collar numbers and badge names. On the phone, text someone. Decided in advance, if alone who your child would contact.
As a white observer, if your child or a black stranger is stopped
Any white person observing a black person who is stopped by the police should put themself between the man or woman of colour and the police. They will need to take an active role, as observers, to record and witness the police when they are intervening with black individuals.
An observer can contradict officers if they see something different than what the police are alleging.
Give your child or the person who has been stopped your phone number in case they need you to be a witness. Send them any recordings.
You are not in danger. Therefore there is an opportunity to use your white privilege to be a shield. This is not about your anger. Your job in this situation is to be a shield and act as a witness. Never get angry, lose control or in any other way escalate the situation. Negative police with an agenda may be looking for a way/excuse to escalate, and the chance to do so. However, it won’t be you that will suffer the consequences. The person of colour will be the one to be impacted.
So in summary in many cases, contact with black young people can go smoothly but it is better to prepare for the worse and hope for the best.