Blasting rapper Boosie Badazz's hit song "F*** the Police," local law enforcement officers switched roles with Scotlandville Magnet High School students Wednesday afternoon, asking the teens to pretend to pull over the officers.
The officers — also playing their new role — kept blasting the loud music, talked back and didn't comply. The four students pretending to be officers were flustered. While the exercise brought laughter from the audience afterward, the four teens said they felt "disrespected" and "verbally abused."
The officers, representatives from the Louisiana National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, also had the students pretend to be in a car they pulled over, giving the students and those in the audience both perspectives of police work with the goal of educating and preparing the young black students for interactions with law enforcement.
“We know there’s a breakdown in communication between law enforcement and African Americans, especially young ones. We admit that," said Jonathan Hill, a deputy constable for Baton Rouge. "So we do these interactions to make sure we can speak the same language.”
The officers explained to the all-female class, who are part of Scotlandville's government affairs/law magnet program, the rights that both civilians and officers have during interactions, and the best way to respond to an issue that might arise.
“You have rights," said NOBLE president James Jefferson, a senior trooper with State Police. "In my humble opinion there’s a difference in what rights you have and what’s right to do at the right time. If we don’t comply, it’s been shown time and time again it doesn’t work out for us. Period."
The four officers preached compliance to the students any time they are at the scene of an incident, saying it will help them in the future, whether that means surviving or at a court date.
"You're not going to win on the side of the road," Hill said.
That message was matched by Leah Raby, chair of public policy for 100 Black Women in Baton Rouge, an organization that co-sponsored the event.
"In these times, this can save you from certain incidents," Raby said. "You want to live to fight another day."
But the officers also implored the teens to file a complaint if something is not handled appropriately, if they are mistreated.
"We hate bad police just as much as you do," Jefferson said, who worked in Internal Affairs for State Police, reviewing complaints.
They called on the youth to get involved in making change, including by voting for politicians who will work for progress and getting involved in crime and poverty issues, whether that's through law enforcement or not.
The students were able to ask about careers in detective work, why officers always carry guns and what to do if they are pulled over in an area without lights. The officers answered candidly.
Sophomore Kennedi Davenport said while she's never had a problem with police personally or in her family, she said, "It's kind of hard to watch the events that happen that involve police," referencing police-involved shootings. But after Wednesday, she said, she knows what to do if she ends up in an encounter with police.
“Just listen to the police officer even if you don’t feel like it’s right," Davenport said. "As long as you know your information — you’ll be able to back that up and tell what actually went on.”