Last month, lawmakers of the New Jersey Assembly unanimously passed a law mandating that public schools instruct children on proper protocol to navigate interactions with police officers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Sheila Oliver, the bill’s co-sponsor, stated, “Look, I’m just trying to save lives.” The Democrat from Essex, N.J. was one of 76 members of the assembly to vote in favor of Assembly bill A-1114 on June 22. There was not a single vote against.
Some Black Lives Matter activists, however, have spoken out in staunch resistance to the bill. Some of the group’s prominent members fear the bill would only serve as a scapegoat for police brutality, especially in a time of high-profile police shootings and subsequent acquittals of officers involved.
Spokeswoman for the Black Lives Matter chapter in Paterson, N.J., Alexis Miller, is calling for a “no” vote when the bill reaches the Senate. Black Lives Matter has also drawn up a petition protesting the proposed legislation, and have urged supporters to call state senators to convince them to vote against the bill.
The senate has the bill. Please call these committee members. They have the ability to stop the bill. pic.twitter.com/JBB2FKuD27
— Alexis (@AlexisD_Miller) June 26, 2017
Miller believes that the law places the burden of the interactions purely on the citizen, while in her words, “allowing police to continue to evade accountability.” Officers are required to undergo routine traffic stop training.
Miller continued, “This bill is clearly designed to create a scapegoat for police brutality, and that scapegoat is New Jersey’s children. It does nothing to address the laws already in place that protect the immense power of police departments. … Children are expected to master the idea of respectability politics in order to protect themselves from officers.”
Sheila Oliver, on the other hand, thinks that standardizing education on such confrontations in public policy would ultimately benefit children of all races and ethnicities on such matters.
“A lot of times kids want to know if they get stopped if they have the right to call their parents,” the lawmaker said. “Can the police search their car? Do they have to get out of the car? … They have questions like these with the backdrop of being black and interacting with police. There may be a lot of fear instilled in them, a lot of potential panic.”
Oliver also states that her bill does not teach children to be subordinate to police, but instead informs them on proper conduct and the legalities of these types of interactions.
“This is not a bill to teach kids to be subservient to police but to empower children, and ultimately adults, about their rights and their role in interacting with law enforcement,” Oliver stated.
Nine hundred sixty-three people were killed by police officers in 2016, a slight decrease from the 991 in 2015, according to the Washington Post. Concurrently, 135 police officers were killed on the job, the most on duty deaths in five years.