Over-Policed and Speaking Out

King County Department of Public Defense

A teenaged Black girl with dyed copper hair smiles, as if about to speak.

The King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) wants to make sure every person knows their rights when faced with the criminal and civil justice systems.

Especially in communities of color and poor communities, when dealing with police and child protective services, knowing your rights can help you protect yourself and your family.

To connect with people who might face arrest or a child removal, DPD wanted to provide sound legal advice in a way that would engage their target audiences.

Behind each systemic issue they wanted to address, was a series of small stories. Stories of a dad or a mom who wanted to regain custody of their son or daughter; stories of a teenager who needed to know their rights when confronted by police.

How could we amplify those stories, center those voices, and provide useful information?

To begin, DPD and Block by Block partnered with Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County.

We met — off camera — with some of the youth involved with the organization and discussed their rights by facilitating a conversation between the youth and public defenders.

The youth told their stories about arrests and interactions with police. They asked questions about what their rights were in those situations and public defenders were able to answer them.

This back and forth became the basis for our Know Your Rights video.

The story we built together offered sound advice for youth, by youth.

The video became the launchpad for a new DPD Facebook page so they could continue sharing stories like these with the whole community.

But youth interaction with police wasn’t the only issue DPD wanted to tackle.

The vast majority of children removed by child protective services are eventually returned to their parents, either after a hearing or after the parent completes courses ranging from anger management to substance abuse treatment.

But when a child is first taken away, getting them back seems impossible.

That’s how Dan and Lynette felt. The emotional experiences they each went through seemed to represent how so many other parents in similar situations felt.

How they navigated the system to successfully reconnect with their kids also provided the actionable, specific advice that could aid other parents caught in this situation.

Connecting with stakeholders about complex and sometimes sensitive issues can be difficult. Are you ready to explore a new creative approach? Join us for a free brainstorm to learn more.