If you’re a Black driver, this retired NC cop’s message could save your life

In Glen Frey’s 1984 song Smuggler’s Blues, he instructs a partner-in-crime “You be cool for 20 hours and I’ll pay you 20 grand.”

BJ Council isn’t asking for 20 hours. She just wants you to be cool for 20 minutes.

“That’s how long the average police stop lasts,” Council said when I spoke with her recently. She’s Durham’s former deputy police chief. “Check your emotions for 20 minutes,” she said, “get through the interaction and get home.”


Since 2015 Council has been director of “You & Five-O,” a program she started to educate the public about how to survive police stops.


“Because of the Black and Brown bodies that are being killed disproportionately by members of a profession I still love,” she said. “My main mission is getting those Black and Brown bodies home.”

A major problem with many police interactions, Council said, is: “Some people don’t think they’ve done anything wrong” when they get stopped.

“Doesn’t matter. I try to tell them ‘The only person you can control is you,’ ” she said. “Arguing with an officer on the side of the road is not going to help. Stay calm and just get through the interaction.”

If you feel like you just must have your say right then and there, she said, “ask for a supervisor. If they’re not busy, they’ll come and talk to you.”

Council is hosting a free “reality check” webinar on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. to spread what she hopes is a life-saving message. Go to to register for the webinar.

For you squares, 5-O is street lingo for the po-po, The Man, the fuzz, Johnny Law.

But former Deputy Chief, I asked, shouldn’t you also talk to the other side of that interaction — the police? I mean, every officer isn’t as calm and unflappable as Reed and Malloy on Adam-12 — (yeah, I’m old) — as the unblinking eye of ubiquitous cellphone cameras proves.

Do you talk to your former colleagues, too, hmm? Yes, actually, she said, and she developed a program for officers.

“I try to get them to understand that people are going to dislike you just because of the uniform,” she said. “It’s not about you personally. They don’t even know you.”

As someone who has been stopped more than 100 times while driving, shopping or walking, I have learned a few things about interacting with police. The main thing I’ve learned is that there is zero currency in jawboning with a cop.

You know you didn’t go through that red light?

Shut up. Take the ticket.

You’re positive you weren’t doing 70 in a 55 because your 1977 Ford Maverick starts doing the rumba when you hit 55?

Shut up. Take the ticket.

You know the shirt you’re wearing is an old one you pulled from the back of your closet, but the officer following you with his hand on his gun is insisting that you just put it on inside Dillard’s and tried to walk out without paying for it?

OK, that’s when you can be excused for losing your temper.

But don’t.

You aren’t going to adjudicate anything on the side of the road — unless it’s adjudicating yourself into a jail cell or Shady Lawn.

Oh, if I knew the stop was bogus and they were stopping me just because I fit some nebulous description, I might take their name in vain and call them everything but a Reuben sandwich — but only after they were miles away.

While they were there performing their duty, though?

It’s “Yes, sir” this, and “No, sir” that.

“You & Five-O,” which Council presents at churches and schools, is funded primarily by contracts with different police departments and her own savings. She says: “I’m not trying to get you to walk away liking police officers. I’m just trying to get you home. Alive.”

Halleluyer! That’s what everyone wants — 5-O and civilians.

Editorial Board member Barry Saunders is founder of Correction: An editorial Monday should have said the Inflation Reduction Act would cap drug costs, not all health care spending by Medicare recipients, at $2,000.