“There’s a problem in our communities, there’s a problem in this country, and that problem is law enforcement and the community do not understand each other,” said Dr. Alfred Titus, former NYPD homicide detective and hostage negotiator. “There is a gap of understanding.”
Titus, an author and criminal justice professor at John Jay College who worked in law enforcement for 23 years, hosted a seminar on June 30 on how to interact positively with police at 3D’s Community Empowerment Center in Baldwin.
He has written two books, “Forward Motion” and “The Personal Side of Policing,” and founded an organization called A. Titus Consulting, conducting private investigations and making a motivational speaking tour around the country. Titus said the recently released “The Hate U Give” and “When They See Us,” a movie and drama miniseries, respectively, sparked conversations within the police community and inspired the informational session.
Titus began by showing graphic videos to the dozen attendees, depicting traffic stops in which African-Americans were shot and killed by police officers. Then he showed videos in which police officers were shot by civilians.
“You need to see both sides of the situation,” he said. “That’s a different perspective that I feel I have, being African-American, born and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, becoming law enforcement and following through with my education. I’ve seen all sides, the complete circle of these situations that are going on.”
Some 1,093 people were shot and killed in the United States by police officers in 2016, according to The Counted, a database compiled by The Guardian. In the same year, 64 police officers in the U.S. were killed by gunfire in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the country’s fallen law enforcement officers.
Titus shared tips on what to do at a routine traffic stop that “would lessen the threat level that the police officer feels” in order to come out of the situation safely.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do, even though there are situations where there are bad police officers — there are bad everything in every field — but if we can understand their mindset, if we can understand what they’re thinking, then we can maybe help ourselves and help our families and communities,” he said.
If stopped by police, he said, you should remain calm, control your words, emotions and body movements, and communicate clearly.
“If the officer asks you for ID, say I’m going to get my ID, it’s in my wallet or it’s in my glove compartment,” Titus explained. “Communicate in that way so that he knows what you’re doing. [The officer’s] guard is up because he’s about to enter a situation that he’s not sure of.”
Roll the car’s windows down, especially if they are tinted, turn off the car, place the keys on the dashboard and hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, he explained. If it’s nighttime, turn on the interior lights.
“Now when that officer is coming to you, he should not be agitated, he should not be as concerned, he should not have the fear that something could happen,” Titus said. “It’s a more comfortable situation for him to walk into. Now the officer can interact with you different — better — hopefully.”
If the officer is demanding and rude, Titus suggested contacting the local precinct and submitting a complaint, adding that the street is not the place to handle it.
“Your goal, just like the officer’s goal, is to get home,” he said. It’s “to end that situation and get back home to your families.”
E. Reginald Pope, president of the Nassau County chapter of the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights organization, said after the seminar that Titus’s presentation was “much-needed,” but needs greater exposure.
“Why is it that the police departments aren’t taking the initiative to do what he’s doing?” Pope asked. “There’s greater outreach that’s needed.”
A Nassau County police public information officer said he is unaware of such seminars for the general public that are regularly held.
“It’s good to reach out to the community,” said Deepak Kumar, one of Titus’s students at John Jay, after the seminar. “It’s a nice first step because one person learns something, they can spread it out to other people, and then they can keep spreading” the word.