Better World

Booklet Created By ACLU and Mother of Tamir Rice Teaches Kids How To Safely Interact With Police

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The mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was killed by a police officer in a Cleveland park five years ago, has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio to create a booklet to guide young people through interactions with the police. Samaria Rice wanted to make sure the Tamir Rice Safety Handbook was colorful to appeal to children: the front cover features her late son Tamir’s favorite color, red, and the back cover displays a smiling photo of him.

The handbook teaches some key ways that young people can try to de-escalate a situation when interacting with the police, with the primary tip being to stay calm and not to run. Other tips include: “Ask the officer if you can take out your cell phone. Do not reach for it until they say yes,” and, “If you’re a passenger, you can ask if you’re free to leave. If yes, silently leave.”

Like other ACLU resources, the booklet also contains specific know-your-rights information, such as “Police need a warrant to search your phone” and “If police ask you to identify yourself, you must provide your name, date of birth, and address. … Besides telling police this information, you do not have to answer other questions.”

The safety handbook is aimed at preventing and de-escalating unnecessary violence. It’s also meant to provide information to reduce the stress of a police stop or other law enforcement interaction, the uncertainty of which can be scary for young people. ACLU Campaigns Manager Melekte Melaku, who worked on the handbook, explained, “We want to make sure we’re giving kids the tools that they need, while acknowledging that it’s not fair that young people have to walk around and fear for their safety like they still do in Cleveland.” If it seems like a lot of guidelines for kids to have to know, it is: “Black children often have to be adults,” Melaku said.

These guidelines are important for all young people, and parents, to have a basic grasp of — because even if your child isn’t necessarily “at risk” for being treated unfairly by police and authority figures, their friends or classmates might be. Plus, the detailed guide can help everyone understand the perspectives of people of color or other marginalized folks who may get nervous around law enforcement. Anyone can download the Tamir Rice Safety Handbook here.

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Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.