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Black Law Students Association host alumnus, author Eric Broyles

Lecture addresses ways black community can navigate current police environment

<p>Eric Broyles speaks on his book, "Encounters with Police: A Black Man’s Guide to Survival."</p>

Eric Broyles speaks on his book, "Encounters with Police: A Black Man’s Guide to Survival."

The Black Law Students Association hosted Law alumnus Eric Broyles Monday for a lecture titled “Encounters with Police: A Black Man’s Guide to Survival” Tuesday. During the talk, Broyles outlined how black men can keep themselves safe in situations involving police.

Broyles’ motivation for writing the book stemmed from recent controversies surrounding Eric Garner and Michael Brown — topics which have prompted national outcry and discussion. He said he thought African-American men often do not understand how to express their grievances against police while maintaining a peaceful atmosphere.

“Neither of these individuals understood that there was actually a better forum for them to express their anger and their frustration,” Broyles said. “I’ll call it their rightful anger and frustration because African-Americans often feel they are targeted and often are targeted.”

Broyles said to successfully navigate police confrontations, black men need to comply and contest — two points of strategy. He said police do not always protect civilians’ rights even when they should, so black men must agree to follow police orders peacefully.

“Always communicate with the officers, tell them what you're doing, let them see your hands and let them know every move you’re making,” Broyles said. “It’s a shame we have to have this, but it’s clear we need this type of activity right now.”

The second step — contest — means expressing complaints about police treatment after the fact. Broyles said if a man feels like an officer racially profiled him or harassed him for no specific reason, he should call the station and file a complaint.

“Your actions actually empower them, their power is very limited when you just comply,” he said. “I try to make it clear to young people in particular that your actions really dictate how bad it gets for you at that moment.”

Although his guide has been criticized for encouraging African-American males to go along with police brutality, Broyles said he wants to teach men more about how to interact in police situations and pick their battles.

“It’s nothing about swallowing pride — it’s about rules of engagement,” Broyles said. “There are different rules of engagement when you're dealing with the police.”

He also emphasized how people need to understand the police’s position. Broyles described this with an anecdote in which he was pulled over and surrounded for no legitimate reason, but later discovered it was because his car matched the description of a murderer’s car.

“There was actually a valid reason for what had occurred,” he said. “Officers are oftentimes investigating crimes [anyways] — they have a list of people they’re looking for.”

Following the talk, Broyles engaged in a question-and-answer session and debate with attendees. Second-year Law student Raphael Turner, the social action chair for the BLSA, said the event’s audience was passionate and engaged.

“The people who were here are the people who really cared about the issue,” Turner said.

Turner had originally met Broyles as an admitted student and invited him to speak after learning about his book.

“He was my first point of contact for the Law School,” Turner said. “He wanted to get the book out to as many people as he can to get to as many people as possible.”

Turner said the talk was especially important since the arrest of third-year College student Martese Johnson, which has garnered national attention for questions of excessive force by state Alcoholic Beverage Control officers.

“With the recent events with Martese, we decided this is definitely a discussion we need to have on campus,” Turner said.

Although the BLSA is primarily geared toward graduate Law students, Turner said the organization plans to reach out to undergraduates in the future to create a stronger connection with black students.

“We are looking forward to in the coming year working with the undergrad students in a much more hands-on method and creating an undergraduate and law school link,” Turner said.


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