Flex Your Rights

Flex Your Rights (Flex), a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, was launched in 2002. Our mission is to educate the public about how basic Bill of Rights protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. To accomplish this, we create and distribute the most compelling, comprehensive and trustworthy know-your-rights media available … (about 1/2).

Audience; Busted Movie; 10 Rules; Staff; Success stories; Donate; FAQs;
For mailings: Flex Your Rights, PO Box 21497, Washington, DC 20009, USA;

About: … The founder, Steven Silverman, was previously a campus organizer for the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act’s aid-elimination penalty. 

The law blocks financial aid access to students reporting drug convictions. As part of his work, Silverman prompted students to describe the details of the police stops and searches leading to their minor drug arrests.

A disturbing pattern emerged, and various legal and law enforcement experts confirmed his conclusion: The vast majority of people are mystified by the basic rules of search and seizure and due process of law. Consequentially, they’re likely to be tricked or intimidated by police into waiving their constitutional rights, resulting in a greater likelihood of regrettable outcomes.

The sum of these outcomes flow into all major criminal justice problems — including racial and class disparities in search, arrest, sentencing and incarceration rates.

In order to ensure that constitutional rights and equal justice are upheld by law enforcement, we must build a constitutionally literate citizenry. For example, a citizen who properly “flexes” her rights in the face of police misconduct will be poised to counter with a convincing police complaint or civil action.

Frustrated by the lack of innovative and accessible know-your-rights information, Silverman developed this website and lectured at conferences and universities. Playing the role of “Officer Friendly”, he donned a cop uniform and engaged volunteers in typical police situations. These role-playing lectures greatly enhanced the know-your-rights educational experience, but a more versatile and cost-effective approach was needed.

In 2003, Flex secured funding from the Marijuana Policy Project grants program to create its first docudrama, BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. Flex has overseen independent distribution of more than 20,000 DVD copies, and it’s one of the Internet’s most popular advocacy videos, reaching more than 2.5 million viewers. It’s also regularly screened in hundreds of college and high school classrooms and embraced by an array of professional and civic groups — including police instructors, student and community activists, lawyers and concerned parents. Most importantly, Flex materials positively impact people who use our advice.

Flex has recently completed production for 10 Rules for Dealing with Police, a new docudrama focused on the concerns of communities of color. The DVD is now available.

Based in Washington, DC, Flex collaborates with community activists to fight new policing schemes that violate citizens’ Bill of Rights protections. Successes include decisive victories against Mayor Fenty’s so-called Safe Homes Initiative and an attempt by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to implement random searches of Metro passengers. (See NBC coverage of protest).

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