For Students In Ohio, A Crib Sheet For Interacting With Police In Akron, Ohio, some students made a reference card designed to improve relations between the community and police. It offers tips on how to behave — and how to report police misconduct.

For Students In Ohio, A Crib Sheet For Interacting With Police

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in Akron, Ohio, this week, every middle and high school student is given a glossy two-sided card offering suggestions for how to deal with police. It's a collaboration between the city's police department and an anti-violence youth group. From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze reports.

M.L. SCHULTZE, BYLINE: The You and the Law cards begin with the big picture - stay out of trouble - and then a rapid succession of 15 bullet points - control your emotions, answer questions about your identity, put your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight and report police misconduct - advice that comes with phone numbers. The youth group is known as Akron PeaceMakers. Member Devin Clark says it raised $1,500 to print 50,000 of the cards.

DEVIN CLARK: I think at first a lot of them are going to look at them and be like, you know, why do I really need this? But when they get put in the situation, they're going to look back at that card and be like, wow, you know, that helped when I actually read that. It'll put them in a better position.

SCHULTZE: The cards are getting lots of praise from adults, but they're now heading out to a tougher audience. At Firestone High School on the city's northwest side, the reaction is largely one of interest and some debate over the responsibility of officers in encounters. Rachel Cooke says it's important that the cards recognize that police can be the transgressors.

RACHEL COOKE: I'm not saying that all cops are bad, but there are cops that are drunk on their power, I would say. So I think that it holds them responsible so they can stay in line. They have to obey the law just like we do.

SCHULTZE: In a quieter spot across the hall from the cafeteria, Ryan Hall says he expects and welcomes the debate - better in a high school cafeteria than on the street.

RYAN HALL: This is almost a preventative measure. In many cases, it was a small situation that has escalated to end up being a much larger situation.

SCHULTZE: The idea for the cards came from a meeting in December, soon after police in nearby Cleveland shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a playground. Billy Soule is Akron's liaison with the PeaceMakers. He says the kids wanted to see more than protests.

BILLY SOULE: We were hoping that someone within a community would say, we need a mechanism to tell our kids what to do.

SCHULTZE: So the kids did it themselves. Though some argue the cards go too far in supporting the police point of view, these kids disagree. They say it was crucial that the cards also include advice to document and report police misconduct. Ryan Hall says it's a matter of letting people know they have options.

HALL: People can feel as if they're powerless against the police because they are the police. They're put in a position of authority. Instead of cussing him out, I can just say, OK. Let me calm down. And then at a later time, call the police station.

SCHULTZE: Willa Keith, a retired Akron police sergeant who works with the group, says it's about building trust.

WILLA KEITH: We are all working for the same goal. We want peace in the city. We want harmony. We want to live the best lives that we can.

SCHULTZE: The Akron group plans to eventually distribute the cards to adults and to possibly extend the program internationally. It already has the support of the head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Gary, Ind., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says mayors across the country are desperate to find ways to bridge police-citizen divides in their communities. And she and others are looking at this approach as one way to do that. For NPR News, I'm M.L. Schultze in Akron, Ohio.

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