Trenton, New Jersey - A new bill passed last month by the New Jersey Assembly to teach kids how to 'interact' with police officers and prevent confrontations is being opposed by Black Lives Matter.
The vote on the bill was unanimous, and is similar to what is called "the talk," a conversation that many black parents say that they have with their children, according to Philly.com. But the group Black Lives Matters doesn't like the idea, and is calling for a 'no vote' when the bill reaches the Senate.
Sheila Oliver, Assemblywoman and bill co-sponsor of the bill, said “Look, I’m just trying to save lives." In response, Alexis Miller, lead organizer for the Paterson, New Jersey chapter of Black Lives Matter, said that the bill places the responsibility of police interaction on the person, and "allows police to continue to evade accountability."
She said, "This bill is clearly designed to create a scapegoat for police brutality, and that scapegoat is New Jersey’s children. It does nothing to address the laws already in place that protect the immense power of police departments. Students … children are expected to master the idea of respectability politics in order to protect themselves from officers.”
Assemblywoman Oliver said that 'The Talk' is a private conversation that black parents have with their children especially as they get at the age where they're driving, and is intended to alleviate the fear she says they may have about being stopped by the police.
She said that the bill is simply to give students and ultimately their parents information about their rights, and their role in interaction with police officers.
Black Lives Matter said that the bill does nothing to stop what they referred to as "rampant police brutality."
After discussion between Oliver, the ACLU, and other legislators, the bill was modified to include instruction about a person's rights when interacting with officers. The new version includes teaching students "about the officer’s responsibility and proper behavior, their own rights as citizens, and how to file a complaint, if necessary".
A similar law was passed in Texas, Illinois, and Virginia that requires high school students to learn what they should do during a traffic stop. The class is part of their driver's education curriculum.
The states of Mississippi, North Carolina, and Rhode Island are considering similar laws. Oliver said that current programs sponsored by the ACLU, National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, and Jack and Jill of America, are good, but they're not enough.
Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association, said that the group supports Oliver's legislation. He said "There is no training … no learning about something that can’t be a benefit to everyone involved. I think something like this provides everyone with the opportunity to look at, and perhaps understand, the situation from an entirely different perspective."