Nearly a year ago, Capt. Faheem Akil of the Wilmington Police Department started a program named “Real Talk,” where a group of law enforcement officers visit venues across Delaware to help bridge the gap between officers and everyday citizens.
This past Sunday, Nov. 27, Capt. Akil and a panel comprised of other law enforcement officers met about 100 to 120 people of all ages and races at Simpson United Methodist Church in Wilmington to answer their questions and concerns.
“It was a very interactive conversation,” said Chelle Robert-Jones, an investigator at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. “This wasn’t just a one-sided presentation, where the panel talks at the audience. This was a true back-and-forth discussion.”
Topics included how to react when pulled over by a police officer, since many in the audience expressed that they had different understanding of an officer’s instructions than what the officer truly meant.
“I was not so interested in the legislative part of the discussion as I was in knowing what I should do when stopped by law enforcement,” said Darius Manlove. “I do feel that there should have been more youth in the audience. We as parents need to educate our children, as well as law enforcement. We can’t just leave it all up to them.
“There were a lot of good points made about how to act when you are stopped by a cop,” he said.
One of those points was to keep the interaction pleasant. The officers advised citizens not to argue with the officer at the time of the stop. If you do have a complaint, notify the department after the encounter and follow through on it.
“We should remain calm and respectful, and understand that police have to secure their surroundings,” Rev. Pearl Johnson of Sampson United Methodist Church noted. “If you feel that you were disrespected or protocols were not followed, then send in a complaint, because officers have a file that is kept on their behavior.”
According to Robert-Jones, an officer on the panel even suggested that citizens discreetly put their phones on record during a police stop. This way, should something happen, despite the citizen remaining compliant, it can readily be shown.
The panel did admit that there were bad cops out there, but also noted that there are also a lot of good cops who just want to de-escalate the situation.
“You wouldn’t lump an entire classroom of kids together as ‘bad,’ just because of a couple disruptive ones,” investigator Robert-Jones explained. “It’s the same thing with cops. You have aggressive cops, but then you also have the ones that want to de-escalate the situation. It is unfair to lump all of them together because the actions of the bad ones are what gets publicized.”
“At the end of the day, the goal is to de-escalate the situation, so that we all get to go home safely,” he said.