By Joel Hall
The E-3 (Empowerment, Enrichment, and Enlightenment) Program, the Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association, and local law enforcement officials will meet with young men on Saturday to show them how to constructively interact with police.
"The Law and You," an interactive workshop, will take place Saturday from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., at the National Archives at Atlanta, located at 5780 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. For $10 per person, parents and young men between the ages of 14 and 18 will watch an instructional video and learn directly from local officers how not to act when questioned or stopped by police.
Raynard LaNier, a former administrative assistant for the homeowner's association and director of the newly formed E-3 Program, said the primary goal of Saturday's event is to build confidence among, and provide outlets for, young males of minority descent. He said the workshop will help young men make better choices when confronted by law enforcement.
"If you're wrong, you're wrong," LaNier said. "It doesn't matter if you are black or white, it's how you handle it. The workshop this weekend is to open up a dialogue between the kids and the law enforcement."
LaNier said officers from the Clayton County and Atlanta police departments have confirmed attendance and law enforcement officials from several local police and sheriff's offices also have been invited.
Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said the department is excited to participate in the workshop. He said he believes it will familiarize young people with what police officers do, and why they do it.
"I think it's very important that we exchange this kind of dialogue ... so the young people know our expectations if we pull them over and to know in general, that we're not out to hurt them," Turner said. "They can interact with us not just when there are calls for service, but when everything is OK as well.
"There was a [recent] bank robbery and the suspect wore dreadlocks, a white T-shirt, and blue jeans," he continued. "A lot of kids like to wear that stuff, so when we have that call and we see five or six kids with dreadlocks, white T-shirts and blue jeans, we are going to talk to all five of them. If they are innocent and have not done anything, they need to remember to just cooperate. If they help the officer with what they need, they will send them on their way."
Synamon Baldwin, president and co-founder of the Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association, said many times, due to fear and lack of knowledge, young people who encounter police can turn a situation that would not result in an arrest into a misdemeanor, or felony offense. She said the workshop will offer common sense suggestions, such as keeping one's hands on the steering wheel when pulled over, not running from police, not giving a false identity to police if questioned and not being confrontational.
"They [young men] end up in bad situations because they don't know the law or the proper procedure," Baldwin said. "Ignorance of the law is no defense. A lot of people are getting caught up in the prison system, which prevents them from being able to vote, go to college, get a job, and ultimately contribute to society.
"If they do break the law, there are consequences, but there are even ways to deal with that," she added. "The purpose of this workshop is not to teach them how to outwit, or outsmart, law enforcement. It is to teach them how to have positive interaction with police officers."
The workshop is limited to 60 young men, 20 of whom will be asked to participate in a public-service video project. LaNier said spaces are still available. For more information about registering, call (404) 396-2706 or (770) 316-7549.