The New Jersey State Assembly has proposed a new bill, which requires schools to teach children how to deal with police without getting killed. However, these legislative efforts have been met with stiff opposition.
According to a recent report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Assemblywoman Shelia Oliver, a Democratic lawmaker representing a district in Essex County, New Jersey is a co-sponsor and vocal advocate of this new bill, which seeks to legislate what critics call an excuse to commit violence against civilians by law enforcement officers.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement is at the forefront of the opposition to this new bill. However, Oliver says that those who are opposing her bill are misguided about what this policy intends to do. “Look, I’m just trying to save lives,” Oliver said in a statement, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Oliver (who is a black woman) feels that black parents must start talking more with their children about how to deal with police once the children get old enough to legally operate a motor vehicle. “A lot of times kids want to know if they get stopped if they have the right to call their parents,” Oliver reportedly said.
“Can the police search their car? Do they have to get out of the car? … They have questions like these with the backdrop of being black and interacting with police. There may be a lot of fear instilled in them, a lot of potential panic,” Oliver continued.
Alexis Miller, the lead organizer for the Paterson, New Jersey chapter of #BlackLivesMatter believes differently. She has endorsed a no vote once the bill makes its way to the New Jersey State Senate. “This bill is clearly designed to create a scapegoat for police brutality, and that scapegoat is New Jersey’s children,” Miller said, according to The Inquirer.
“It does nothing to address the laws already in place that protect the immense power of police departments. Students … children are expected to master the idea of respectability politics in order to protect themselves from officer,” Miller went on to say.
It is fair to argue that if the New Jersey State Legislature wants to mandate teaching young civilians about how to deal with police, then there should also be a simultaneous effort to mandate teaching law enforcement officers an increased and upgraded version of deescalation policies in order to better deal with civilians.
In order to effectively “save lives” as Oliver suggests, both sides of this equation must be willing to uphold a higher level of social responsibility. Not just children.