(UPDATED March 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm CT) -- At a December 2014 march to protest the deaths of young unarmed black men in Cleveland, New York and Ferguson, Missouri, Ambra Phillips expressed fear that her son could be the victim of an officer-involved shooting.
Ms. Phillips helped organize that march in hopes of starting a conversation about racial inequality and how police interact with the public, especially minorities.
On Saturday, the Tyler Organization of Men will continue that conversation by hosting an event that will focus on how to safely interact with law enforcement from 1-3 p.m. at St. James CME Church, 408 N. Border Ave. in Tyler.
Ms. Phillips said she won't be able to attend but that her son, a 15-year-old John Tyler sophomore, will. She said the event is an unfortunate but necessary educational opportunity.
"It's something I talk to him about all the time," she said. "I'm sure he's tired of hearing it but it's a concern for me."
Artis Newsome, an event organizer and member of the group, said the goal of the event is to educate people about do's and don'ts in different scenarios, such as how to handle a traffic stop.
Newsome said his children are grown and that he never worried about their safety, but that he and his wife had to deal with incidents while they were in college.
"It's very real," he said. "Most families have dealt with something like that, and we want to use this as an education tool to prevent other incidents."
Newsome said he believes most incidents involve a combination of lack of respect, the officer's lack of respect for the individual's rights and the individual's lack of respect for law enforcement.
Event organizer Gary Pinkerton, who worked in law enforcement at the Smith County Sheriff's Office for 28 years, agreed.
"A lot of it comes from both sides," he said. "Attitudes set the tone for a traffic stop. That's why it's important to know these tips and to know the other side — the officer's side of walking up to a car that they don't know anything about, or what they're walking into."
Pinkerton said the number of recent officer-related deaths have residents unsure about law enforcement. He said he hopes the event helps inform and reassure residents that police are here to help — not to fear.
Panelists for the event include Tyler Police Department Detective Reggie Conley, Herbert Hyder, director of the Tyler Junior College Police Academy; Tyler attorney Clifton Roberson; Fabian Arteaga, from the Upshur County Sheriff's Office and Harris County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Marlin Suell.
There will also be information about career opportunities within local law enforcement and why it's important at the event.
"There are racial problems everywhere but through education and communication we can make things smooth between police and the community," Pinkerton said.