WEDNESDAY, July 7 — Fourth Ward Lansing City Councilman Brian Jackson partnered with The Village Lansing to host a “Know Your Rights” camp last night designed to offer strategies for how to handle police encounters while also ensuring constitutional rights aren’t being violated.
The free event featured multiple hypothetical scenarios including traffic stops and investigative detainments with community volunteers while Jackson played an overly aggressive cop. Jackson — who also works as an attorney for the Ingham County Public Defender’s Office — also offered legal advice and tips on when citizens do (and do not) have to cooperate with cops.
“This is information everybody needs to know,” said Michael Lynn Jr., who founded The Village alongside his wife Erica Lynn. “There have been multiple young people all across the city getting pulled over and their rights are being violated. And they don’t know any better. If you don’t know any better, the judicial system will wrap you and trap you up in a whole bunch of court stuff.”
Jackson’s recent tips largely mirrored advice on police encounters published by the ACLU.
- You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions about where you are going, where you are traveling from, what you are doing or where you live. If you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, say it loud enough for the cops to hear you.
- Always ask: “Am I free to leave?” In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers, even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested or you are in jail. You cannot be punished by the police for refusing to answer a question.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but cops may pat down your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon. Refusing consent may not stop cops from carrying out a search against your will, but it could preserve your legal rights.
- If you are arrested by police, you have the right to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one. You also have the right to make a local phone call. Jackson advises that you don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without your attorney.
- Police are allowed to lie to you but you cannot lie to the police, Jackson said.
- Cops can request a license, registration and proof of insurance from drivers during a traffic stop, but passengers are not required to provide their names or identification to police. Officers can still demand that passengers and drivers exit the vehicle during a stop. If you’re a passenger, you can ask if you’re free to leave. If yes, you may leave.
A live stream of the event can be rewatched online at The Village Lansing’s Facebook page.