Gulfport citizens learn about interacting with police

Gulfport citizens learn about interacting with police

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Recent incidents involving civilians being shot and killed by police have led many to wonder what to do if they are stopped.

A small crowd gathered at Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport to learn what they need to know when interacting with law enforcement.

"If you have an opinion about something, say it to us. We're in a safe place, we're in God's house. Let's speak freely to one another, because I think if we do this right today, we all have a take away," said Gulfport Chief of Police Leonard Papania.

The Gulfport Police Department was the participating agency, but the idea was that of a New Light Baptist Church member and Jackson State University grad student, Lenea Lang.

"I felt that it was important now more than ever that we not only know our rights, but our responsibilities as well when interacting with police," said Lang. "That we keep the lines of communication open between the police and our community."

The seminar began with a lesson on the different levels used by police to determine use of force.

"Every agency in the United States, every municipal agency, has a different use of force policy," said Sgt. Paul Podlin.

The officers also went over citizen rights when it comes to law enforcement interaction by using some landmark court cases.

"People versus Brendlin, a 2007 case, says that the passengers in the car are not free to leave, that I have control over the passengers," said Lt. Phillip Kincaid.

Papania stressed the importance of recent events, and even had some of the department's newest officers attend so they could build relationships beyond the badge.

"I want you to learn their names. I want you to learn who they are. I want them to learn the names of citizens they serve," said Chief Papania.

Chief Papania says he hopes they have the opportunity to participate in similar events at other places throughout the city.

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