ACLU New video targets teens, civil rights
The 15-minute program advises teenagers what to do in police stop.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A young girl with three passengers is driving somewhat recklessly after leaving a club and is pulled over by police. But the driver doesn't have her registration and license handy. She and the passengers are confrontational. So are the officers.
Result: The driver is taken to jail.
The scene is shown in a 15-minute video program created by the American Civil Liberties Union of Greater Pittsburgh. The video, "Pull Over ... What To Do," is designed to advise high school-age drivers of their rights and how to behave should police pull them over.
"You need to educate people about what their rights are so they can know if they've been violated," said Barb Feige, director of the ACLU's Greater Pittsburgh chapter.
The gone-wrong scene is followed by what to do.
The driver, passengers and police keep their cool. She has her papers and follows the officers' requests, except for refusing their request to search her trunk. But because she's otherwise cooperative, the officers let her go with a citation.
Police served as technical consultants to the project, Feige said.
"They were very collaborative, very cooperative," she said. "They want the public to know where they're coming from when they stop a car."
City police spokeswoman Tammy Ewin said the program was generally well received in the department and she hopes it's successful.
"Obviously, the officers are trying to do everything they can to respect people's rights," Ewin said. "It's also important for those stopped to know what their responsibilities are."
The program is already being shown in Pittsburgh Public Schools and some police departments outside Pittsburgh have asked for copies to use in training, Feige said.
Police and the community
The project grew out of problems between Pittsburgh police and the community in the mid-1990s, Feige said.
In April 1997, the city entered a consent decree with the Justice Department to avoid a possible federal takeover after federal officials determined Pittsburgh had a "pattern and practice" of tolerating civil rights abuses by its officers.
The ruling was spurred by a 1996 class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 66 people, most of them black, who alleged that the city, its highest officials and 75 officers condoned a pervasive pattern of abuse. Among other things, the city was accused of not properly handling police misconduct allegations.
Police relations have improved since, Feige said.
"I think police officers are better trained. I think they have a higher awareness of their own responsibility and how they interact with the public," Feige said.
In the wake of racial profiling complaints in the 1990s and again after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the ACLU and other groups produced pamphlets on citizens' rights. But Feige said she's unaware of any other ACLU chapter using a video. She hopes to expand the project with programs on police-civilian interactions on the street and in police stations.
The ACLU is screening the program for the public on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and is offering DVD or VHS copies for $5 to cover costs.