Students Told It’s Alright to ‘Know Your Rights’

The "Know Your Rights" card is one of many ways students are becoming informed on what to do in a stressful police situation.
The "Know Your Rights" card is one of many ways students are becoming informed on what to do in a police situation.

Students who had questions about what to do in a police encounters attended the “Know Your Rights Conference” on Sunday, Dec. 5.

The Student Association’s (SA) University Police Committee hosted the event, which took place in Student Union 100, while Students for Sensible Drug Policies/National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws and Alpha Phi Alpha co-sponsored it.

The purpose of the event was to inform students about the basic rules to remember during a police encounter, and included an informational video as well as a discussion with SUNY New Paltz attorney Andy Kossover.

“The goal was to get more people educated about basic rights, because a lot of students aren’t confident in them. Even if they could only watch 10 minutes of the video, they would still be a little bit more informed,” said SA Executive Vice President Eve  Stern, an organizer of the event.

Stern believed the presence of an attorney was valuable to the attendees.

“Many students don’t know they have a lawyer available to them, and it also gave students the opportunity to ask him any questions they wanted,” Stern said.

The video, “10 Rules for Dealing with Police,” opened with prominent criminal defense attorney, Billy Murphy, in a room of people all wondering about their rights. Various people stood up explaining police situations they experienced where they felt their rights might have been violated. Through these examplary encounters, Murphy shared the 10 rules to know when dealing with police.

Along with these rules, Murphy offered advice to those watching. Some of Murphy’s tips were to never allow ego to take control of a situation and to use a device to record your thoughts immediately after an incident in which you believe misconduct occurred. He also spoke of three phrases to always keep in mind, “I don’t consent to searches,” “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?” and “I’m going to remain silent. I’d like to see a lawyer.”

Kossover discussed rights students have while attending college and talked about dorm search policies, such as how any indication of criminal activity makes everything fair game, but otherwise the search is illegal.

He also spoke about other college incidents such as what to do at a party where police show up. He advised leaving after the first visit,  and not waiting for the second. Kossover answered many other questions regarding rules of searches and said police were able to tell which students they encountered had watched Kossover’s movie.

With a turnout of 70 people at one point, the hope of the organizers is that more students will know what rights they have and how to properly handle a stressful police situation.

“I learned a lot from the event. I think the most important was our right not to consent to a search, which I later informed my suitemates about too,” said second-year French and international relations major Marissa Kactioglu.