“We needed to be here,” said Pine Bluff Police Department Deputy Chief Ricky Whitmore of the department's involvement in the session. “Dealing with kids today, they need to understand what we're doing and they need to understand what rights they have. But, they need to understand where police are coming from.”

Don't flee.

Don't fight.

Don't be flippant.

Those were just some of the tips given to students Friday during the Jefferson County “Rap Session” at Dollarway High School.

“The purpose of the event was to bridge the gap between juvenile and law enforcement,” said Gould Police Department Chief Efrem Elliot. “A lot of times, kids get things misconstrued on what their rights are, what they can do and what they can't do, and this was an attempt to bring those two sides together to educate our youth… .”

According to Elliot, for the past nine years the “Rap Session” has been hosted at area high schools in an effort to not only inform, but also teach students about law enforcement. However, this is the first year the event was sponsored by Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV.

“Our county judge is very pro-active when it comes to our youth, and he really wants to make sure the youth have the best and they are educated on all levels,” Elliot said. “So, he tries to reach them on every level we possibly can. So, what we want to do is educate them and let them know what their rights are and how to interact with law enforcement so that they will be more educated if anything happens.”

The session brought together nearly 300 students and representatives from law enforcement agencies for an informal discussion on issues facing teens as well as how to handle situations involving police officers. Participants for the panel included Arkansas State Police Lt. Randall Diaz, Juvenile Justice Center Judge Ernest Brown, Pine Bluff City Attorney's Office Maurice Taggert, Gould Police Department Chief Efrem Elliot, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Major Lafayette Woods Jr., Pine Bluff Police Department Deputy Chief Ricky Whitmore and Jefferson County Prevention Coalition Director Hank Wilkins V.

“We needed to be here,” said Pine Bluff Police Department Deputy Chief Ricky Whitmore of the department's involvement in the session. “Dealing with kids today, they need to understand what we're doing and they need to understand what rights they have. But, they need to understand where police are coming from.”

Major Lafayette Woods Jr. of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office provided students with a demonstration of how to react when pulled over by an officer of the law. He used four volunteers from the audience to re-enact a simulated traffic stop. The students in the vehicle responded to the officer as they would in a real-life situation, with the driver jokingly jogging away after being asked to step out of the vehicle.

Of course, that was the first mistake Woods pointed out that people make.

“It was very important for me to illustrate the proper way for students to respond when stopped by a member of law enforcement,” Woods said. “This is especially true as we look across our country. Community members have been distressed by images of law enforcement officers using deadly force in questionable circumstances.”

Seventeen-year-old Austin McAfee, who was the driver in the vehicle during the demonstration, took away more than just some pointers on how to handle himself during a routine traffic stop.

“Doing the right thing is doing the right thing, because when you get in trouble ain't no getting out of trouble,” McAfee said. “People can't save you, people can't do stuff for you. Always think ahead and always think of the consequences before you do something.”

Dollarway High School principal Yolanda Prim said the “Rap Session” is just one of many events the schools plans to host in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in the future. She hopes the partnership will allow students to get better familiar with officers in the community who can help them with issues they may face in school or out of school.

“I think it's very important for our students to know especially at this level because you have such a wide variety of age groups at the high school,” Prim said of students knowing officers are here to serve and protect them. “I think this was very informative for not only the students, but for the staff as well.”