The Talk: Killeen families discuss race and policing nationwide

Emani Payne reports. 

Emani Payne reports.

KILLEEN - What to do when approached by a police officer? It's a question some may not think about often. But for African American families nationwide and here in Central Texas, it's become daily dinner table conversation.

It's a talk that's taken place for decades. Passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. Not the one about the birds and the bees a more serious talk, taking place between African American communities behind closed doors. The talk about how to act around police officers in hopes to make it home alive.

"Two words can describe what it feels to be a black man in 2017, justifiable homicide" says Killeen resident Lonnie Farrow.

Farrow says he got the talk from his mother when he was just a boy.

"We're told at a very young age when you interact with law enforcement you know your constitutional rights but they don't mean anything when you interact with law enforcement. You are to comply with all of their requests because the goal is for you to get home safely" says Farrow.

The talk is given again every time another issue of police brutality against people of color is raised.

"Before you move you make sure that you have their full attention and that they're aware of the move you're going to make. Sir would you like my drivers license ok it's in my right pocket, if you would like officer you can reach into my right pocket and retrieve it, I would prefer that" Farrow says.

It's a talk he just had for the first time with his 8 year old son Lonnie Jr.

"When he's 6'5, 220 pounds, facial hair I don't know what other people are going to see him as. I feel like I'm still a slave, I feel like slavery never ended, I feel like we didn't just have the first black president" says Farrow.

It's a difficult dialogue fellow Killeen resident Tavares Bethel and his son say is necessary.

"It's about making sure that I contact someone so they can understand hey I'm being stopped by the police, this is the situation. I'm entering into an interaction with police so if you don't hear from me in 15 to 35 minutes then it may be necessary that you check for my well being" says Bethel.

But both families agree that they want things to change. We took them straight to police headquarters where they met face to face with the people who patrol their neighborhoods, and had a 2 hour long roundtable discussion about current race relations and policing nationwide. African American officer Kyle Moore says he became a cop to make a difference, but admits even he got the talk from his parents before picking up the badge.

"My mom when she gave me the keys at 18 years old driving through some of those back towns she would tell me hey make sure you roll your windows up and if you do happen to get stopped make sure you keep your hands on the steering wheel" says Killeen Police Officer Kyle Moore. 

At times the conversation got very heated as both sides fought to explain their experience.

"When the police pull me over I am no longer a citizen. Red white and blue represents freedom until the police get behind you, you can ask any person of color" says Farrow.

"I don't want to make it seem like every situation is a life or death situation but it is" says Moore.

"It's life or death sometimes. I want to go home, he wants to go home, you want to go home and he wants to go home" says Killeen Police Officer Reagan Rollins-VanValkenburg.

However the discussion also proved to be a learning experience and created a safe space for positive, open dialogue.

"It ain't about me, it aint about Reagan, it aint about Officer Cruz it's about us coming together so we can all have an understanding and move forward, how do we do that by having open dialogue" says Moore.

Everyone involved says they don't want to be judged for their skin color or uniform but rather be acknowledged as a human being.  Something they've all agreed to try and set the example for in the community moving forward.    

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