Oct. 26-- Tulsa Police Officer Jesse Guardiola still gets anxious if he sees the flashing blue lights in his rearview mirror.
"Even though I'm a police officer, (if) I get stopped in a different state, I get nervous," he said. "I've had my share of jerks who pulled me over."
So he understands the anxiety that teenagers and people who have had bad experiences with law enforcement get when they are pulled over. He and others want to curb that.
Tulsa and Tulsa Public Schools police officers met Wednesday morning with students from Tulsa area high schools to dispel rumors, ease concerns and educate them about the best ways to interact with police officers.
The Mayor's Police and Community Coalition Youth Forum also provided a chance for the students to ask police officers anything they'd like to in a nonthreatening environment, one most people don't experience.
"This is your opportunity to have your questions answered," said Hannibal Johnson, a coalition facilitator. "One way to do that is to set up a situation where teens can see police officers as people."
Guardiola said the most important thing people can do when encountering police officers is to be respectful and don't panic.
"We are going to try to be respectful to you and you be respectful to us," he said.
Guardiola also reiterated what anyone must do when they feel they have been mistreated by an officer. He said unfair treatment needs to be reported to the Police Department and added that people must know their rights when interacting with police.
"We don't want officers to disrespect you," he said. "I encourage you to complain, because we do not teach our cadets to be disrespectful."
After students heard from several speakers, they had the opportunity to visit with a police officer who was sitting at the table with them for a lengthy discussion about nearly any topic they wished.
Jermain Brown, a junior at McLain High School for Science and Technology, said it was a great opportunity to talk to and learn from an officer in that setting. It's one he can take back to his school and spread to his peers.
"We will actually know what to do now," Brown said. "And I can tell people the stuff I learned."
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said that is a big goal of the forum. Each of the more than 100 students who participated even have a homework assignment -- to organize an event at their school to spread the word.
"The schools you come from, they will be safe," Ballard said. "I can put in all the policies I want, and none of it will compare to the impact all you students have.
"You make the change in your school, and you make that change from within."
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
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