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Pulled over by the cops? Adopt legendary N.C. State coach Valvano's philosophy: Survive and advance.

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.”

B.J. 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, Durham’s former deputy police chief, said when I spoke with her recently. “Check your emotions for 20 minutes, get through the interaction and get home.”


Council since 2015 has been director of You and 5-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 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.’ 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 August 11 at 6 p.m. to spread what she hopes is a life-saving message. Click here to register for the free webinar or go to

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, hmmm?

Yes, actually, she said, and she has 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.

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

Shut up. Take the ticket.

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

Shut up. Take the ticket.

Ÿ 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?

Okay, 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 into 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.

When stopped by police, everyone should adopt the philosophy of legendary BN.C, State basketball coach Jim Valvano: Survive and advance. If you have a grievance, wait until you get home or go down to the station - even if it means swallowing your pride and not having the last word.

About You and Five-O, which she presents at churches and schools and is funded primarily by contracts with different police departments and her own savings, Council stated “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.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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