Law group teaches immigrant communities how to navigate police interactions


(Law group teaches
immigrant communities
how to navigate police
interactions) SOURCE MINNPOST Late last week, scores of immigrants filled
the seats of the dimly lit conference room
in the Minneapolis Brian Coyle Center as
a group of lawyers addressed the crowd
about their legal rights when it comes to
police interactions.
Local leaders of the North American
Somali Bar Association brought their
second educational event since its launch
in January to the immigrant-populated
Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to educate
the community about their constitutional
rights and responsibilities when dealing
with authorities.
Among the presenters was Amran Farah,
a Minneapolis attorney and an NASBA
member, who spoke to a crowd of more
than 50 people about possible scenarios of
a legal encounter with law enforcement.
If an officer pulls over a driver, Farah
explained to the crowd, that driver is
being seized under the Fourth
Amendment. “It’s a seizure when a police
officer has flashing lights on, and in that
way, you feel like you’re duty bound to
submit to that authority.”
She added: But “you’re not seized when
an officer merely approaches you in a
public place. If an officer just walks up to
you and starts a conversation, you’re not
At a time when a deep distrust exists
between many police departments and
many communities of color nationwide,
Farah accentuated that an officer cannot
legally stop someone because of the
person’s skin color.
She said of the officers: “They have to be
able to point to any traffic violation. They
can’t just point to the fact that you’re
black or you look suspect. They need
specific and articulable facts that, taken
together, builds this reasonable inference
that it’s OK for them to stop you.”
All that said, Farah explained, it’s easy
for an officer to stop a driver for a simple
traffic violation: Your break lights are
out. You turn right or left without
signaling. You’re not wearing your
The “Interacting With The Police: Learn
Your Rights” forum also highlighted the
complaint process with the Minneapolis
Department of Civil Rights and provided
instructions on how people with a
criminal history can expunge their
The Friday forum came a couple of days
after a Minneapolis officer was caught on
camera seeming to threaten to break the
leg of a black teenager and after a white
police officer shot and killed an unarmed
black man in South Carolina.
At the event, some side conversations
referenced those incidents while
discussing the day’s presentations.
Abdifatah Mohamed, NASBA member and
student at William Mitchell College of
Law, said in an interview later that the
event was a response to the police
violence across the nation
Mohamed added: “What we wanted to
convey was that the police don’t have
complete powers to behave and do
whatever they want. At the end of the
day, as citizens of this country, we have
some protections and we have some
rights — and it’s important that we
understand those rights so the police
don’t abuse that.”
Participants applauded NASBA for
creating the opportunity to answer their
legal questions and educating them about
their rights and responsibilities.
Burhan Mohumed, a longtime
Minneapolis youth advocate, said growing
up in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood,
he realized that many people in the
community don’t know much about their
constitutional rights.
He added: “Our parents and elders
genuinely believe that a police officer can
do whatever he wants. It’s powerful when
you look at the constitution and when you
can look at all the amendments over time
sort of protecting the individual,
protecting the citizen.”
Advice on police interaction
Behind the forum’s educational
discussions and legal presentations one
common message lingered: Stay alive.
After a long discussion about whether it’s
encouraged to record an interaction with
the police, Mohamed concluded the
discussion with one piece of advice.
“General rule of thumb: be polite.”
He added: “There’s a Minnesota case that
said you can record, but it’s in your best
interest to be polite when you’re
interacting with the police.”
From his seat in the audience,
Minneapolis Police Department Officer
Abdiwahab Ali joined the discussion: “If
you give a police officer the distance to
do his job, you can record it.” But the
recording shouldn’t distract the officer
from his or her job, he added.
Mohumed, the youth advocate, explained
how each incident relating to a police
shooting reminds the youngsters to be
cautious about how they talk, walk or
dress. “There are so many things that I
need to adjust just to walk out of that
interaction alive,” he said.
And he had a similar message for the
young immigrants: “Do what you need to
do to walk out of that situation in one


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