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Rogers Park workshop shares advice on interactions with police

Kulmeet Galhotra, an assistant Cook County public defender, advised people at the workshop to “Be calm, be respectful and be polite,” when they interact with police officers. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

In the wake of a Justice Department pattern or practice investigation into the Chicago Police Department, elected officials organized a workshop Sunday on the North Side to let residents know how best to act if approached by the police.

One of the first bits of advice given to the roughly 65 people who attended the seminar at Rogers Park Presbyterian Church boiled down to three words: “Always be calm.”

“Be calm, be respectful and be polite,” Kulmeet Galhotra, an assistant Cook County public defender, told the audience.

The workshop was organized by state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and Ald. Joe Moore (49th). It came as Mayor Rahm Emanuel struggles to restore trust in the Chicago Police Department. That trust was strained by police shooting controversies, including the release of video of an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

The Justice Department announced its pattern and practice investigation shortly after the release of that video.

Karen Sheley of ACLU of Illinois | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois was one of the panel members at the workshop. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Galhotra was joined on the Rogers Park panel by Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois, ONE Northside community organizer Ralph Edwards and Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The workshop offered advice for interacting with police for people pulled over in a car, stopped on the street or approached at home. The panelists reinforced advice provided in video snippets.

When pulled over in a car, panelists told audience members to stay calm and remember they have a right to remain silent. They also told the audience to use the words “I don’t consent to searches” if an officer seeks permission to search the car.

If stopped on the street, panelists told the audience not to run; to never touch a cop; ask if they are free to go; and remain silent and ask for a lawyer if detained.

Finally, if approached by police at home, panelists told the audience not to let officers come inside without a warrant.