Highlands High School program stresses positive attitude during traffic stops | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Highlands High School program stresses positive attitude during traffic stops

Chuck Biedka

So, you’ve been pulled over by police.

Want the traffic stop to go as quickly as possible and be on your way?

Police offer what they say are the two most important tips: Be polite and listen to the officer’s instructions.

The goal is to promote safety for those pulled over and for the police officers, Maurita Bryant, assistant superintendent for Allegheny County Police, told almost 500 students at Highlands High School on Tuesday.

The “Hope for the Future” youth summit initially was proposed by Harrison resident Sydney Haden to be held at the Sheldon Park public housing community, said Allegheny County Public Housing Authority police Chief Mike Vogel.

“We talked. Why bring folks of this caliber together for 50 people when we could have 500?” he asked.

The program, led by Bryant and others, is endorsed by NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Police Law Enforcement Executives.

“We want to have positive relationships between police officers and youth,” Bryant said.

“One of the main things we tell youth is, if you have a positive attitude with interactions with police officers, you are almost guaranteed to walk away from that situation,” she said.

There are some simple but necessary things that drivers — young and old — need to do, explained Lavonnie Bickerstaff, Pittsburgh assistant chief of investigations.

“We want young people to know when they are pulled over by police, the most important thing is to pull over, turn your vehicle off, be polite and wait for the police officer’s instructions. That goes a long way,” Bickerstaff said.

Police want to prevent ill-advised attitudes that could end up on a young driver’s record, said University of Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Shawn Ellies.

“We want to make sure the students are not falling into the pitfalls with law enforcement personnel. We want to make sure that the students stay on track, graduate from high school, go on to a career goal of theirs, whether it’s college, military or trade school.”

Students need to know we all want them to be safe,” added Roxanne R. Plater, Pittsburgh Noble chapter’s financial secretary and member of a Pittsburgh trauma group that assists crime victims.

“Everyone is trying to go home,” Platter said. “Students need to know that how they speak and what they say has a lot to do with the outcome” of their contact with police.

“Good, positive attitude and manners …,” Bickerstaff said, “take you a long way,” Ellies said, finishing the quote.

Harrison police Chief Mike Klein agreed that attitude toward police is of utmost importance.

“The driver and occupants should just remain in the car and comply with lawful requests of the officer who made the stop. Sudden movements and confrontational replies raise a red flag for the officer. Keep your hands stationary and in sight of the officer. If at night, turn on your dome light. The officer doesn’t know many people that he/she stops and is unaware whether you are a typical, law abiding citizen or a career criminal. If you feel you were cited unfairly, the case can’t be tried on the street, and the remedy is to appeal and have your say in court,” he said.

Every traffic stop is different, said state police spokesman Trooper Brent Miller in a phone call from Harrisburg.

Miller urges all drivers to pull over in a safe spot as soon as possible after being signaled by police.

At night, “turn on the dome lights and keep your hands on the wheel or put them on the dash. Do not reach for documents until directed by the trooper to do so,” Miller said.

Albert L. Walker is chief of the 16-member Hanover Township police department and the first vice president of the Pennsylvania Police of Chiefs Association.

“I’m speaking as an officer with 31 years’ experience, not for the Association,” he said.

“People may be frustrated for being pulled over, and they may even disagree if there has been a violation,” he said. “That shouldn’t stop drivers from being reasonable and respectful.”

“We hear on social media about traffic stops going bad. There are thousands and thousands of traffic stops every day. People only hear about the ones that go bad,” he said.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
Highlands High School students take part in a skit about traffic stops with University of Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Shawn Ellies, left, and Maurita Bryant, assistant superintendent for Allegheny County Police. The students, Tehreem Komal, Jarrod Masarik, Jaidon Hughes and Darren Hildenbrand pretended to be in a car pulled over by police during a program at the high school on Tuesday, April 30, 2019.
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