"I think it's shocking for a lot of people and for anybody with kids," Strahan told PEOPLE of the recent police shootings
A little more than week has passed since a Charlotte, North Carolina, police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott.
The 43-year-old black man’s death sparked days of protests, both violent and peaceful in the city, fueling the national debate over police reforms – and Michael Strahan (a father of four kids between the ages of 12 and 24) says the topic is certainly on his mind.
“Even though a lot of these things have been going on, now we see it – there are cameras there,” he said. “I think it’s shocking for a lot of people and for anybody with kids. I think all of the events that have happened have been tragic and unnecessary.”
Strahan – who shares daughter Tanita, 24, and son Michael Jr., 21, with ex-wife Wanda Hutchins and twins Sophie and Isabella, 12, with ex-wife Jean Muggli – said he’s especially concerned about his two eldest children.
“They drive, they’re on their own,” he said. “They have their own places and they’re in college and it’s scary because they could be one of these kids in these situations.”
As for what advice he gives his kids when it comes to dealing with police, Strahan said for him, it’s about “learning how to handle it, to stay calm.”
“If you’re in a situation with a police officer, if he tells you to do something, just do it,” said Strahan. “It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the fight, it’s not worth the argument. You’re not trying to prove a point – because as they say when you’re arguing or fighting with somebody, nobody can tell who’s right and who’s wrong.”
“I just think you have to be very careful and accountable because one bad choice and one split-second decision can change or alter your life or end your life,” he said. “I don’t want that for my kids and I don’t want that for anybody’s kids.”
“That’s been the hard thing to watch – to see these parents afterwards suffering because anyone who has kids understands that probably the worst thing you can go through on this planet, on earth, is to lose a child.”
Continued Strahan: “Be respectful. Be respectful and listen and do exactly what you’re supposed to do and what you’re told to do. Don’t get upset, don’t argue, don’t fight. Just listen.”
Strahan believes a calm demeanor will ultimately pay off.
“I think if you take a deep breath and just go through the motions of what you need to go through, you won’t even remember you were there a few hours later,” he said. “It’s kind of like sitting in traffic – you get mad in the moment but you’ll be somewhere in a few hours and you won’t realize you were sitting in traffic because you just got through it.”
And while “a lot of it has always been there,” Strahan said today’s age of social media and camera phones has brought much of the issue to light.
“It’s not just your word against mine – now there’s actually proof of it,” he said. “But I can’t say that all cops are wrong, or all cops are bad. I think that that’s the wrong approach to take because, as they say, whenever you need help, they’re the ones who show up there for you when everybody else runs the other way. We’ve got to respect that too.”
But that being said, Strahan said the climate feels different than it did when he was growing up.
“I just think that definitely what we’re seeing now is not the way it’s supposed to be,” he said. “I don’t feel like as I was growing up it was that way for me. It feels like maybe it’s gotten worse. And when you’re a parent, you worry about your kids in all situations.”
Strahan said the increasing frequency of fatal civilian shootings at the hand of police officers in recent months is “disturbing.”
“It feels like it’s almost every day, something new. And you see the riots, you see the protests – which I’m glad because if people feel like they’re wronged you have to [react],” he said.
“As a human being, you feel passionate about some things – I think one great thing in this country is we have the ability to speak up and show that,” he added. “I just don’t like when it becomes violent, because I don’t think you kill violence with more violence.”
• With AURELIE CORINTHIOS