The recent police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and the riots that followed renewed a national discussion about race relations and police tactics.

For many Americans, the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown reinforced the notion that "walking while black" can lead to deadly encounters with officers whose aim is better than their problem-solving skills.

A grand jury is examining the shooting, and there are conflicting reports about what transpired between the officer and the 18-year-old.

But the story so far has a familiar, disconcerting ring.

Much of the discussion has focused on improving police training, making departments more representative of the communities they serve and "demilitarizing" forces equipped with gear intended for war zones.

Better communication between officers and community members also is key to preventing simple encounters from escalating to deadly confrontations.

The York County NAACP deserves our thanks for taking the initiative on that front.

A little more than a week before Brown was shot, the local branch of the civil rights organization hosted a public forum on the proper ways to handle encounters with police.

Two attorneys, including Sandra Thompson, head of the York NAACP, were on hand with advice like: don't "cop an attitude," don't resist, don't lie, use your rights to remain silent and refuse searches.

Something as simple as keeping your hands on the wheel during a traffic stop, turning on the dome light and turning off the radio can alleviate tension, said attorney Clarence Allen said.


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If you feel your rights have been violated, file a complaint with the department after the encounter.

This week, the NAACP hosted another forum, this time where attendees could direct questions to officers themselves.

Thompson said she was hoping at least two local police chiefs would participate in Tuesday's forum.

Five chiefs, the York County district attorney and representatives from the Department of Justice and the state Human Relations Commission accepted her invitation.

"This nation is in an uproar, and I think they realize the seriousness of it," Thompson said. "One or two (police chiefs) would have been great. I'm glad for the response, and I'm glad that they recognize this is an important issue to the community."

About 50 people attended and, as Thompson noted, some of them probably didn't like all of the answers they received.

But we hope all of them left with a better sense of a police officer's job, their own rights and what to do when the two meet.