Posted on January 27, 2010

Cop Gives Tips on “Driving While Black”

Zak Stone, New Haven Independent, January 25, 2010

When NHPD officer Shafiq Abdussabur goes to make an arrest, he keeps at least two pairs of handcuffs in his squad car: one for the suspect and the other for the suspect’s mom when she starts to “act up.”

If New Haveners follow the advice of Driving While Black: A Black Man’s Guide to Law Enforcement in America–Abdussabur’s newly released advice book on how to avoid unnecessary arrests–he will be able to leave the extra pairs of cuffs in the station.

One activist present at a book event Saturday argued that changes in behavior need to come from the cops’ end as well.


With chapters like “How to Survive the Common Motor Vehicle Arrest” and “Using Proper Etiquette When You are Speaking to the Police,” Abdussabur’s book attempts to educate readers, young black men in particular, about their rights when they get pulled over by the police. The book provides a “fool-proof plan” for “emerging unscathed” from a routine motor vehicle violation, said the author.


When interacting with the police, “Be very, very polite,” Abdussabur insisted. He explained that when the cops pull someone over, a routine stop can quickly escalate into a serious conflict that terminates with an arrest or the use of force if the driver is uncooperative and mouths off. While racial profiling is a factor that stokes such conflicts, Abdussabur said, a driver’s good attitude can go a long way, whether or not a cop is in the right.

He said that cops already know if they’re going to give someone a ticket within the first 15 seconds of pulling that person over. Turn the music off, put the cigarette out, and don’t do anything to “give the officer a reason to develop a profile about you,” Abdussabar advises.

Reading from his book’s section “Ma! You Ain’t Helping!–When Family Comes on the Scene & Gets Locked Up Too,” Abdussabur urged family members of a detained suspect to avoid arguing with the cops. {snip}

“Bottom line; your mom is too late! But with all of the yelling and cursing at the police, she is right on time for an arrest,” Abdussabur read.

Fair [“activist: Barbara Fair, who offered Abdussabur feedback on the book’s manuscript before it was published,] said in her experience, the source of the conflict is often the police, hassling he mothers of arrestees who are simply trying to find out what their sons did wrong.


Fair said that many people in the Monterey neighborhood still feel “occupied by the cops,” despite the efforts of community-based policing. She said many neighbors think the police are corrupt. They still discuss the case of Billy White, the police lieutenant who received a three-year prison sentence for corruption charges in 2007. People tend to take this anger out on “all officers,” she said, which is “sad, because there are some really good officers out there,” like Abdussabur


Abdussabur said the hopes to publish six more books–one every 18 months–on other urban themes, like gun violence and an analysis of community policing initiatives. He said that his next book will be “a handbook on raising urban males.” Abdussabur is the founder of the Omar Academy, an Islamic boarding school for boys, and CTRIBAT, an anti-violence youth empowerment organization.


The book is published by Wheatmark Book Publishers and sells for $16.95.