On November 9, 2015, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Black Law Students Association from the Tampa Bay Campus coordinated an event at Middleton High School entitled Responding to a Law Enforcement Encounter. In light of the events on Sunday, November 15, 2015, in Minneapolis, the recommendations from the panelists continue to be relevant. According to Sr. Judge Perry Little, “You cannot win a fight in the streets with a law enforcement officer. Obey their directions, and you will live to address any alleged mistreatment at a future time.”
In a nation based on the rule of law, law enforcement is trained to meet and exceed the level of force encountered by citizens in public settings. Citizens will be afforded due process but not when law enforcement is seeking to maintain order. Questions from the audience of students and adults were answered by the panelists and provided detailed information intended to maintain the safety of citizens and law enforcement.
The purpose of the event, according to WMU-Cooley Professor Renalia DuBose, a former Hillsborough County and Pasco District administrator, is to provide students, parents and community members with the proper information on how to appropriately respond when approached by police.
During the event, a panel of six area experts offered advice to keep students, adults, and officers safe during a variety of law enforcement encounters. The distinguished panel consisted of:
- Perry Little, Sr. Judge, Hillsborough County and Florida Circuit Courts
- Renalia DuBose, Professor Cooley Law School & Former Hillsborough & Pasco District Administrator
- Jeffrey Swartz, Professor Cooley Law School & Former Miami-Dade County Court Judge
- Darrell Brown, Retired Lieutenant and Shift Commander District 1, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department
- Faye Brown, Retired General Manager 1 Detention Officer, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department
- Gig Brown, Middleton School Resource Officer, Tampa Police Department
Professor Swartz, who spent a decade as a judge in Miami-Dade County gave insights on how the criminal justice system works, and agreed with Little that obeying officers is very important even when the officer could be wrong. “You are not going to convince a police officer that he is wrong, or you are right,” said Swartz. “That is why we have courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to make those decisions.”