Citizens learn about their rights in police forum

Citizens learn about their rights in police forum

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A local church and the Lawton Police Department held a meeting to teach citizens about their rights. It was held at the Bethlehem Baptist Church on Tuesday night. Some learned something they never knew before, and some came to ask questions to dispel a rumor they heard. Pastor Willie Smith, who organized this forum, said he wanted the community to feel comfortable around officers who are just doing their job.

What to do when you are pulled over by an officer, or if an officer stops you on the sidewalk. Those were some of the topics discussed at Tuesday night's forum.

"I think the lack of knowledge is what causes nervousness, fear. Because you don't know," Smith said.

During a traffic stop or simply talking with officers, open communication and honesty was key.

Lisa Willis, who works with youth in Lawton, asked law enforcement a question that she thought her two sons would need to know during a traffic stop.

"I wanted to know if the police got a little intimidating, do they have the right to film that while it's happening?" Willis said. "So that's one of the questions I asked. And it's good to be able to know that you can do it, but you don't want to interfere with what the police is doing."

Also a big topic of discussion, Lawton Public Schools Police Department and their role in the schools. Chief David Hornbeck says they are sometimes seen as security guards.

"Occasionally there is criminal activity in the school," Hornbeck said. "We deal with everything from assault and battery to weapons bringing brought on school property to drugs in the school. And we deal with those just like we deal with them on the street."

Pastor Smith said he was encouraged to see questions from teens and adults, and hopes they left with new confidence.

"I think with this sharing of information and asking and answering questions has really calmed some nerves," Willie said.

The citizens also heard from LPD Chief James Smith, who told them how to file a formal and informal complaint against an officer if they were unfairly treated. A formal complaint is done in person at the police station, and the document must be signed and notarized so police can begin an official internal investigation. An informal complaint is when a citizen can call the police station's front desk, and explain their issue with a particular incident with an officer.

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