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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Black prosecutor urges drivers, police to cool it

Associated Press

PORTLAND — The former president of the National Black Prosecutors Association told about 150 community members that police officers need training to handle tense situations and motorists need to demonstrate responsible behavior when stopped by police.

Sheryl Robinson made her comments Saturday at a sometimes contentious forum near the Portland neighborhoods where police fatally shot two unarmed black motorists within a year.

The most recent shooting, the March 28 police killing of James Jahar Perez during a traffic stop, has already been debated in public hearings. But angry feelings remain among people who say they have been stopped unfairly by police because of their race.

Robinson said police officers are forced to make difficult and controversial decisions within a matter of seconds, sometimes without complete information.

“There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop,” said Robinson, who has investigated for the U.S. Department of Justice hundreds of cases tied to police misconduct.

She said it was important for police officers to receive extensive training on such situations and that other cities have spent millions of dollars to improve handling of tense situations. Citizens should demonstrate reasonable behavior, she said, such as turning off the engine and radio when stopped by police.

One audience member shouted that he had a right to listen to his radio without being harassed.

“We have to follow rules,” Robinson said. “During the traffic stop is not the time to make that complaint. This is a life and death situation, and I want you to come out of this alive.”

Robinson later joined a panel discussion with several lawyers, state Sen. Avel Gordly and mayoral candidate and former police chief Tom Potter.

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