Wherever you live, know your Bill of Rights

BRATTLEBORO — What makes a town tick with the peaceful regularity of a living room chime? Safety.

Everyone wants to feel safe in his or her daily activities. While small towns are not immune from crime, racism, disaster, and disturbances, our town of Brattleboro benefits from having a friendly and responsive fire department, and a police department whose officers treat our community with courtesy, professionalism, and respect.

In urban areas, a higher percentage of inner city tensions can disrupt the peaceful relationship between the community and police. The contrast between a small town and large city when citizens have to deal with unexpected police encounters is vividly shown in a 40-minute film, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police.

Produced by Flex Your Rights, an educational nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., this film is shown around the country to educate the public about how basic Bill of Rights protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. The constitutional legal rights described in the film are important for all Americans to be aware of.

The people portrayed are largely people of color, and the film is geared to inner city events. However, the “10 Rules” apply in small towns as well. Scenes in the film depict racial profiling, car stops, and car and home searches. The emotional stress and strain that divides the inner city community and their police is disturbing.

With our local police force focused on the safety and well-being of our community, we are lucky to have few of the incidents portrayed in the film happen here. Nevertheless, the enumeration of our constitutional protections from search and seizure without due process of law make this film worth watching.

Narrated by the legendary trial lawyer William “Billy” Murphy Jr. (from HBO's The Wire), 10 Rules depicts people dealing with policing tactics used every day in the United States. Through extensive collaboration with victims of police abuse, legal experts, and law enforcement professionals, Flex Your Rights has developed a powerful resource that provides proven survival strategies for dealing with police encounters.

As a part of our outreach to the community, Marijuana Resolve, Inc., a nonprofit Vermont state organization, is sponsoring a showing of 10 Rules for Dealing with Police on Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., in the third-floor meeting Room at Brooks Memorial Library.

Joseph Brooks, a retired captain of the detective division for the Manchester (Conn.) Police, will introduce the film and engage the audience in a question-and-answer discussion afterward. Brooks is now a member of the speaker's bureau for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. A social advocate from the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity will moderate the discussion period following the film.

Admission is free and open to the public.

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