She Shares her top 5 rules in dealing with law enforcement officials
By Jessica L. Dupree
Conflict management expert Lenay Richardson is on a mission to teach Black communities how to have a better relationship with law enforcement and authority figures. As proven public health intervention strategies are needed to address systemic stereotyping, profiling, and biases – Richardson is here to help solve the knowledge gap in conflict management.
With the infamous murder of civilian George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of police – an unprecedented and historic global protest was ignited. The Black Lives Matter Movement and Diversity & Inclusion campaigns shifted the culture as Fortune 500 companies re-branded their corporate cultures and identities to reflect a warm embrace of African Americans, colored people, and minorities.
According to statistical data listed on statista.com, the rate of fatal police shootings in the United States from 2015 to April of 2022 shows that Black Americans stood at 38 deaths per million of the population while White Americans stood at 15 fatal police shootings per million. But the alarming and deeper concern was what most perceived as a lack of accountability for the police officers who commit these crimes.
As police brutality has become a major conversation in the Black community, Richardson saw that there was a knowledge gap on how to interact with police and diffuse difficult situations.
“Conflict resolution is really all about building relationships. It’s about learning how to navigate, lead, grow, and manage relationships,” says Richardson.
Richardson sat down with Heart and Soul Magazine to discuss her journey to become a community activist and conflict resolution with authority figures. She also shares her top 5 rules of diffusing difficult situations with the police and much more.
When did you realize that you had a passion for community service and use your knowledge to strengthen the relationship that civilians esp. Blacks, colored, and minorities have with police?
My background is in litigation and I hold a dual masters from Pepperdine’s Strauss Institute in the Caruso School of Law program in Dispute Resolution and Legal Studies. I’ve spent the past 3 decades operating at levels as high as Vice President of Banks and Fortune 500 companies helping them strengthen their relationships with consumers. When I saw the racial disparities concerning police shootings and the Black community’s weakening relationship with law enforcement, I knew that I needed to act and be a part of the solution. I wanted to use help civilians understand the tools and conflict management skills to be empowered and knowledgeable on how to respond if and when they ever find themselves in a similar situation.
What is your message to the Black community about conflict management with authority figures?
Understanding someone else’s message or even your message, it’s about communicating and understanding diversity. You need to understand that people live in an environment that may be different than you do and that people think differently than you do. It’s not always about trying to change people, in the school of conflict management it’s about listening to them and understanding where they are, who they are, and what their message is.
I can control the path I choose. I can understand and accept who you are but I don’t have to be that way. I don’t have to be angry because you are angry. It’s important to always stay calm, center yourself, and get to the point when you’re on the offensive rather than the defensive. Your aim should be to get to the point where you can have a rational conversation. For example, you can say “Hello Officer, How can I help you?” if you are pulled over or approached by the police. You may also choose to ask, “What is this stop for?” You should always take the time and space that you need so you are in a calm and rational state of mind to get the information you need to resolve the conflict.
What are your top 5 rules of engagement when dealing with the police?
1. Listen more than you talk
2. Dispel the assumptions and inquire rather than assume
3. Understand the core and what the “interests” of why this is happening are, i.e. What brought this about?
4. Consider diversity
5. Seek Resolutions
What’s next for Lenay Richardson?
I will be attending law school this upcoming fall and Pepperdine Caruso School of Law and I plan to help use my expertise to strengthen the knowledge gap and teach civilians in the Black community dispute resolution and conflict management techniques to use when they interact with the police or authority figures.
For more information, follow Lenay Richardson on Twitter @RichardsonLenay and on Instagram @RichardsonLanay16