Cook County attorneys to host police forum on citizens rights

Contributing Writer

An upcoming forum will focus on citizens’ rights and how they should react when encountering the police.

The Cook County Bar Association (CCBA) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, will sponsor a public forum titled “Know Your Rights.”

The free forum will focus on how to react to the police during traffic stops, what to do when being detained by the police, and what to do when the police seek to enter your home for domestic calls. Panelists, Calumet City Chief of Police Christopher Fletcher, Chicago police officer Tremaine Hall, Civil Rights Attorney Cannon Lambert Sr, and retired Cook County judge Abish Cunningham, will take questions from the audience. Attorney Amir Akbar will moderate the panel.

Founded in 1914, the CCBA is the oldest association of black attorneys and judges in the country, Lambert said.

At a time when many communities, especially minorities, do not have a good relationship with the police, it’s vital that citizens know what to do and what not to do when they encounter the police, Lambert said.

“It is important for people to know their rights when they come into contact with the police, which we [the association] have found is during traffic stops, being stopped for questioning on the street, and when police are called to the home for a domestic situation,” Lambert said. “Educating citizens on their rights as it relates to police encounters is not just a courtesy, but an imperative to prevent unnecessary escalations that may have fatal consequences.”

The Chicago attorney said he knows too well how deadly a simple traffic stop could be for motorists. He represented the family of Sandra Bland, a Chicago woman who in 2015 was stopped by police in Texas for a traffic violation.

According to Lambert, after being taken into custody Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days later from what Texas police officials said was a suicide. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and settled the case for $1.9 million.

“Routine traffic stops can be some of the worse encounters citizens have with police and we want to show citizens what to do to keep the situation from escalating,” Lambert said.