RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With several police killings of Black men and women making headlines across the nation, the country is now facing a racial reckoning and looking for ways to heal and move forward.
However, for many Black families, these times are re-igniting a talk they have with their children about police to ensure their name never becomes a hashtag.
“Mainly just be respectful to keep the situation calm and not to run from them,” said Ashley Harris.
Those are a few lessons shared during a talk Ashley Harris had with her 15-year-old son Jaylin about how to interact with police in order to make it home safely each night, hoping he’d never have to use them.
However, on Aug. 21, Jaylin Harris found himself cuffed on the ground with guns drawn on him while he was playing tag with friends out front of his own home.
Durham police were looking for a suspect but got the wrong guy.
With his arms stretched out and hands, empty Jaylin Harris said the lessons from the talk with his mother may have just saved his life that day.
“If you don’t have those lessons then you could be either stretched out dead or in jail. It got me through,” said Jaylin Harris.
Isaiah Pope, 19, runs a lawn care business and is often asked to cut his neighbors grass when they’re on vacation.
“So, I was cutting my neighbor’s grass and they were out of town and the police officer rolled up and saw me with my lawnmower and he thought I was breaking into the house or breaking into the backyard,” said Pope.
Pope said the Raleigh police officer did not let him finish the job, told him to leave, and followed him home.
“He kind of harassed me a little bit. To me it felt like being Black, it’s just a part of being Black,” said Pope.
He too believes lessons from his father helped him navigate that situation properly.
The talk is not just happening in Jaylin or Isiah’s home, but in many Black households across the country.
Passed down from generation to generation.
Barbershop to barbershop.
“With all injustices being publicized and shown at its highest height right now. You have to reiterate in your kids how to act and how to behave no matter what,” said Greg Totton, a local barber.
“At 50 years old, we’re still having the same conversations my father had with me and his father had with him,” said Jimmy Evans, another local barber.
Jimmy Evans said it was a celebratory yet scary moment when his son first got his license.
“Other races or the majority get to have a very simple conversation, ‘hey son, have a great day. I’ll see you when you get back.’ When I have that conversation with my son, it’s a 20-minute list of things I need you to do to come home safe. That’s very unfair and a level of PTSD,” Evans said.
Statistics show Black drivers in North Carolina were pulled over more than twice as often as white drivers in 2019 while only accounting for 22 percent of the population.
The concern over race relations and policing is only intensifying for some following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among others.
So what’s the answer?
These families want to be a part of the solution.
They said it is going to take police reform, abandoning stereotypes, and all races working together so that these talks don’t have to keep happening.
“They’re human, too. They work hard. They put themselves in jeopardy but yet they need to be retrained. Why do you want this job? What are your goals,? What can you do to really help these people versus hurt these people? That’s what it’s all about,” said Michael Pope, a father, and reverend.
CBS 17 did reach out to Durham police to be a part of the story but they did not make anyone available.
The Durham Police Department released this statement on the incident involving Jaylin Harris:
In recent days, there have been numerous communications and inquiries regarding the actions of Durham police officers who responded to 2819 Rochelle St, on August 21st to investigate a “suspicious person with a weapon” call.
The caller described an individual at a particular building as having a gun and drugs, and further asserted that he was believed to have been involved in a prior shooting.
Durham police officers had already responded to weapons-related calls earlier in the day at this same address. Upon their arrival, Durham police officers believed an individual behind the building was the suspect.
It was not until the young man was detained that officers realized he was not the suspect, but rather, a 15-year-old resident of Rochelle Manor. Given the nature of the call, officers did have weapons initially drawn; however, they were holstered upon realizing that the detained individual was not the suspect.
Based on preliminary review of video footage, guns were not pointed at the heads of any individual on the scene. Regrettably, an 8-year-old had witnessed the incident.
I met with the families immediately following the incident and have had conversations with them in the last couple of days. We recognize that the current climate of adverse encounters by police in communities of color around the nation continue to resonate.
DPD’s goal is to improve our relationships with the community by leading with and implementing reforms that promote a safe and trusting environment.
A thorough internal investigation is underway, and I, as Chief, have expressed to the families my sincere remorse that this incident even occurred.
DPD remains committed to responding to all our residents’ public safety needs with the utmost care and concern for everyone involved.
We are not a perfect police department, but to become better, we must continue to strengthen our relationship with the community through partnerships and trust, which has already begun with residents and leaders in this particular community and throughout the city.
Following the death of George Floyd and civil unrest across the country, the North Carolina Sheriffs Association crafted recommendations to create positive changes within law enforcement.
Read their findings in full below:
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