The York NAACP is inviting community members "to learn about their rights" during interactions with police officers.

Sandra Thompson, the group's president, said the forum is a reaction to both national and local reports of police using excessive force.

She cited the recent case of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after he was allegedly placed in a choke hold by a New York police officer.

Earlier this year, Springettsbury Township settled two federal civil-rights lawsuits filed by people who alleged officers used excessive force when arresting them.

"Anyone who wants to know about their rights should come out," Thompson said.

The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crispus Attucks, 605 S. Duke St.

Thompson said she wants this forum to focus on community concerns, so there will not be formal law-enforcement representation.

"We want everybody to speak openly and honestly," she said.

Second forum: The group plans a follow-up forum in August or September featuring a panel of local police chiefs and representatives of the district attorney's office.

Thompson, a defense attorney, said she wants people to know they should file a formal complaint if they have an inappropriate interaction with a police officer.

She said she suspects Yorkers underreport such incidents, which makes it difficult for police departments to recognize problems and make policy changes.

"That's where York County needs to make a change," Thompson said.


People who attend Tuesday's forum will also learn about their rights during traffic stops or searches.

Officers need to have a reasonable suspicion that illegal contraband is in a car to force a search, she said. Even for people who have nothing to hide, consenting to a search can backfire, Thompson said.

For example, you might not know a friend dropped a joint in the backseat, she said.

"You may not know it's there, and then you authorized the officer to search," Thompson said. "And then it just becomes blown up."