A delegate wants a law that can help teens like her grandson better interact with officers but it’s drawn mixed reactions from activists.
Jeion Ward wants to make sure her grandson gets it right.
When Virginia House of Delegates member overheard a discussion between her son and her 17-year-old grandson about how to handle being pulled over by a police officer, she felt a familiar sting. The conversation inspired Ward to introduce a bill, which was signed into law by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday, that aims to teach young drivers how to interact with the police.
“We had talked to our sons ― my husband and I did ― and we were having the same discussions over, so many years later,” she told HuffPost.
Her son was passing on the exact same lesson he got from his father: Be respectful. Don’t anger the cop. Make sure you stay polite. “The Talk” often cycles through generations in black families. A mom or a dad tells their children what their parents told them about how to handle being stopped by a police officer. They emphasize that any sudden movements, misperceived attitudes or just being pulled over by the right cop on the wrong day can result in a child not coming home.
But, this time around, Ward wanted to make sure her grandson was receiving the exact same information present in the state’s drivers code. “And that’s when I found out that there was nothing in the code that even talked about proper interaction with law enforcement if you’re ever pulled over,” she said.
The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, requires that driver education programs in the Virginia public school system teach students about “law enforcement procedures for traffic stops” along with the “appropriate actions to be taken by drivers during traffic stops, and appropriate interactions with law-enforcement officers who initiate traffic stops.” The state board of education will work with the state police to make the changes to the education program.
But this law has also prompted some skepticism. There has been plenty of well-publicized examples proving compliance won’t save a black person from being killed by police.
Take Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer in July, as he followed the officer’s orders. Castile, according to his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, informed the officer that he had a concealed weapon and was licensed to carry before following the officer’s command to show his driver’s license.
Castile was shot as he reached for wallet.