INDIANAPOLIS — A Marian University professor is trying to educate people about their rights when interacting with police.
After a year like 2020, highlighting racial divides and distrust with police departments, a guide on how to properly interact with police is critical, Bwana Clements said.
The author of EMPOWER started to write the book several years after a high-profile shooting involving a police officer. After the George Floyd death last year, Clements said even more agencies began reaching out for professional development help around racial justice.
“My ultimate goal is to save lives,” Clements said. “I want to save them literally and figuratively.”
Clements’ book EMPOWER explains people’s rights when interacting with police.
“We feel like we have the right to do things but we really don’t know the rule and so that gets us into this gray area,” he said. “We typically get our advice about how to interact with law-enforcement from our mom, our dad, our older brother or cousin, and uncle. But none of us have sat through an actual course to tell us the dos and don’ts, what we actually have the right to do and we don’t have the right to do.”
Without the proper knowledge, he said things can quickly escalate and go wrong.
“I think fear and anxiety, those historical contexts, lend to mistakes, lend to a bad attitude, lend to distrust,” Clements said.
His guide covers steps to take when pulled over, respectful phrases to use with an officer, questions you don’t need to answer, and what to do if you are arrested.
“This is my attempt to put information down in writing and to share it with the community to really empower us to do better when it comes to police/civilian interaction,” he said.
Clements is reaching out to foundations, school districts, community agencies, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to partner with.
“I was so excited because it’s a great tool to have a conversation,” Shonna Majors said.
Clements met with Majors, who is the Indianapolis director of community violence reduction, and invited him to talk to city service providers about his book, how it can be utilized in their programming, and host summer sessions within the community.
“I could see this being used in workshops, and youth organizations, and adult community conversations, and neighborhood associations,” Majors said. “It can be utilized in schools. Everywhere.”
Clements says misinformation has cost our community far too much. He hopes this will bridge people together.
“You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t need to worry," Clements said. "You need to do with the law says you’re able to do and if that goes wrong, you need to hold people accountable.”
His goal is that every middle school and high school student in the state of Indiana, along with their families, has the EMPOWER booklet at their access.
He wants school districts, the Indianapolis Housing Agency, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and faith communities to purchase and distribute EMPOWER to youth and families. To reach out to him, email him at Bwanaleads@gmail.com.