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South Florida group teaching youth of color how to survive traffic stops

Inner City Innovators shares concerns about interactions with police officers
Lashawn Montal from Boynton Beach..png
Posted at 12:51 AM, Jan 28, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The deadly beating of Tyre Nichols is resonating with the South Florida community as he lost his life after a traffic stop.

Members of the local organization Inner City Innovators spoke with WPTV, sharing their concerning experiences with traffic stops.

The group is all about mentoring youth and keeping them out of trouble, and learning how to survive things like a traffic stop is critical for people of color. They have mentored youth on how to navigate one safely.

RELATED: Memphis police release video of officers beating Tyre Nichols during arrest

"Definitely something we've touched since the George Floyd incident and something we've been building into our antiviolence workshops," said Ricky Aiken, executive director with Inner City Innovators.

"It could've definitely been me. I say that because I've been in a situation before where being detained by law enforcement, being arrested, being in handcuffs, being uncooperative as well," Lashawn Montal from Boynton Beach said.

Montal, 24, says as a youth he was up against a lot of adversity and was getting into the wrong path, but thanks to Inner City Innovators they helped guide him away from trouble.

"From there to now I was able to be rehabilitated in the mind, rehabilitated in the spirit and just take a different drive, take a different approach," Montal said. “When you get pulled over by the cops it's common practice to reach and grab your driver’s license, reach for your wallet but not so much for me. I have to keep my hands in sight, yes sir, not sir. Ask questions, be very formal, very specific."

Mentors with Inner City Innovators say youth often ask about how to navigate getting pulled over and say the release of the video from Memphis is nothing new to things they’ve already experienced.

"It makes me think about when my brother was pulled out of the car and beat up, it makes me think about people that I know who have been abused," said David "Dee" Rae, a mentor and life coach with Inner City Innovators. "It's permeated this culture and this system that's supposed to be there to serve us makes us these nails for these hammers to bang against."

"The youth are almost apathetic to the situation because they feel powerless sometimes because not enough of us are trying to get their perspective or understand their situation. Some of the young people we serve have never worked in a space where the police have been that community police force," Rae added.

Staff members said families of color start training on how to interact with police before their children ever get a driver's license and hopes law enforcement can take better initiatives to get to know their community.

"Any time we see a police car, even if we’re just standing on the street corner, driving in our vehicles, we are frightened for our lives," said Norman Austin, programs director with Inner City Innovators

Staff members said they hope to collaborate with local law enforcement with future youth projects and to better build that relationship between those in uniform and the community.

"When a police officer enters into your neighborhood, you should know that police officer by name, you should know that police officer by face," Austin said. "They shouldn’t be a threat to you. The police are here to protect and serve and that's what they need to do. Protect and serve us."