Flier aims to inform public on safe interactions with police

'You & The Police' offers tips about what to do when encountering cops during a traffic stop, at a house, during an arrest and in other situations

By Liz Navratil
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — Several community groups Monday unveiled a new brochure about police interactions that they hope will find its way into classrooms, churches and other places where people gather.

The brochure, called "You & The Police," offers tips about what to do when encountering police during a traffic stop, at a house, during an arrest and in other situations.

It's an updated version of a flier created in the mid-1990s, after Jonny Gammage died when police were trying to subdue him after a traffic stop. The Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association has been distributing a similar brochure for 18 years, according to its attorney, Michael Colarusso.

The newest brochure, set to be distributed primarily in Pittsburgh, was created with input from the Pittsburgh police bureau, the Black Political Empowerment Project, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Citizen Police Review Board, among others.

Most changes were minor. Some include updates based on court rulings since the original was released about two decades ago. Other revisions changed the tone so it was more neutral, organizers said. A photo of someone in handcuffs, for example, was deleted on the new version.

Among the suggestions:
—"If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it."
—"Don't make any sudden movements."
—"Don't ever touch a police officer."

Tips about drivers keeping their hands on the wheel during a traffic stop or turning on the dome light in a car "may seem like little things but they can make the difference between life and death," said Witold Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU.

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, modified the "Important Telephone Numbers" section of some brochures so they could also be distributed in the Mon Valley. Social studies teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools have received copies, and a spokeswoman said the district is mulling ways to distribute it to students directly.

Absent from Monday's press conference was the Pittsburgh police bureau. Spokeswoman Sonya Toler said later in the day, "The police bureau is hopeful that the pamphlet will be viewed as one of many steps being taken to improve the community's understanding of policing."

Copyright 2015 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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