On the evening of July 6, St. Anthony policeman Geromino Yanez spotted a car on Larpenteur Road in Falcon Heights, a small suburb of 5,300 at the southwest border of St. Paul which was part of the jurisdiction of the St. Anthony police. Officer Yanez had been aware that two black males with dreadlocks had robbed a nearby convenience store three days before.
Yanez radioed a nearby squad. “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger.” He told the squad he was going to stop the car and check the ID’s of its occupants.
What happened next is disputed. The accounts of officer Yanez and Diamond Reynolds, one of the occupants of the car, clearly differ.
What is certain is what resulted: Yanez fired five shots at the boyfriend of Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile, who was sitting in the front seat. Castile later died from the wounds after being taken to a nearby medical facility.
Yanez’s attorney Thomas Kelly maintains that “This is a tragic incident brought about by the officer having to react to the actions taken by Mr. Castile…This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun…and the display of a gun.” Kelly said that Yanez, who had been put on administrative leave, is a “sensitive man” and had been distressed by what had happened and is “deeply saddened” for Castile’s family.
According to Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, “The gun never came out, it could never be a threat. He didn’t ask about it, he didn’t know it was on his person,” Reynolds said in an exclusive interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “He came to the car, he said it was a traffic stop for a taillight. He asked for license and registration. That was it, that was all. The officer never mentioned anything other than a taillight, and we later discovered there was no broken taillight.”
Reynolds says Castile had not touched his gun, but was reaching for his ID as Yanez had instructed when Yanez opened fire.
After Yanez shot Castille, Reynolds started recording from her phone: “I knew they wouldn’t see me as being the person telling the truth,” she told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “I knew by recording, I would be able to have my side brought to the table.”
On the video Reynolds states in a remarkably calm voice, “Stay with me. We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and he’s covered….they killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”
While Reynolds records her testimony, Yanez can be heard yelling/frantically shouting, “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand out…”
“You told him to get his I.D., sir, his driver’s license,” Reynolds responds, again with a calm that seems remarkable in the circumstances.
Reynolds is told to get out of the car and is handcuffed. After she says, “I can’t believe they just did this!” there’s a voice saying, “It’s okay, I’m here with you.”
The voice is Reynolds’ four year old daughter, Dae’Anna. Dae’Anna was sitting in the back seat when officer Yanez opened fire and shot Philando Castile five times in the front seat of the car.
From these facts and statements, we can assume that officer Yanez approached the car he’d stopped with trepidation. He had surmised that the car’s occupants could be the two black males with dread locks, one with a wide nose, who had robbed a nearby convenience store. The two black males could be armed, as they were in the robbery.
What are we to make of Yanez’s agitated emotional state after the shooting? What are we to make of the fact that Reynolds appears to be calm and far more emotionally restrained than Yanez—this despite the fact that her boyfriend Philando is bleeding to death in the seat next to her?
In that moment where the video starts, officer Yanez knows his life and his career will forever be changed. After the shooting, his body is still coursing with adrenalin. He is safe physically, but he does not appear to feel safe.
Diamond Reynolds has just witnessed her boyfriend being shot. She worries he might be dying, and her worries prove correct. She is recording the rest of the encounter in order help validate the testimony she knows she will eventually give about the event. She knows she is in the presence of an officer who has just shot someone whom she believes was not a threat to the officer and did not reach for his gun. She can surmise that her being without a gun will not necessarily make her safe, especially in the presence of this officer who is clearly still quite agitated.
She also knows her four year old daughter is in the back seat. That her daughter’s life and her own life depend upon her doing what the officer instructs. She knows that the officer will most likely be upset that she is recording from her phone. Perhaps she also believes that the phone recording might prevent the officer from shooting her. It is a calculated risk she is taking. She knows that if she reacts too emotionally she might upset the officer. She knows also that the validity of her testimony depends in part on her ability to remain calm and in control.
She also knows that staying calm and in control will make her daughter more safe.
What we are faced with here is two different interpretations of the same reality. Two different epistemologies.
But even in this brief exchange it seems clear: Diamond Reynolds understands how officer Yanez is thinking. She is still aware officer Yanez could turn and shoot her if she does something which causes him to further fear for his safety. She knows she must remain calm.
Yanez is clearly not thinking about what Diamond Reynolds is thinking or feeling. His mind is focused on the shooting. On his justification for the shooting. He is not thinking about how Diamond Reynolds is perceiving this event, nor how her four year old daughter is perceiving the event. Nor does he seem to be thinking, I need to do what I can to save the life of this man I have just shot. Nor does he appear to be thinking, Who is this man I have just shot?
Yanez entered the encounter picturing the possibility of confronting two male robbery suspects. But the car obviously did not contain two males. It contained a male, a female, and a four year old girl.
Questions arise: At what point did Yanez realize that the occupants in the car were not the robbery suspects? Was it before or after the shooting that he realized there was a woman and not a man in the front seat beside Philando Castile? At what point did Yanez see the four year old girl in the back seat? Even after the shooting it is not clear that Yanez realizes there is a four year old girl in the back seat. That he actually sees her.
But then we may also question: Did officer Yanez actually see Philando Castille?
To answer this question, we must understand that the verb “see” here has two quite different meanings in this tragic encounter.
Even if the occupant of the car had been one of the robbery suspects, that does not mean that officer Yanez would have been justified in shooting him.
But Philando Castile was not a robber of convenience stores.
Under the headline “He Knew the Kids and They Loved Him”: Minn. Shooting Victim was Adored School Cafeteria Manager,” here is what how the Washington Post article described him:
“Before he was fatally shot Wednesday by a police officer in Minnesota, before his name became a hashtag, Philando Castile was known as a warm and gentle presence at J.J. Hill Montesori Magnet School, where he managed the cafeteria. He was there when children streamed into school for breakfast in the morning, playing music and bantering. He was there when they returned for lunch: Laughing with kids, urging them to eat more vegetables, helping keep order in his easy going way….’We’re just devastated,’ said Anna Garnaas, who teachers first-, second- and third-graders at the school, located in St. Paul, Minn. ‘He just loved the kids, and he always made sure that they had what they needed. He knew their names, he knew what they liked, he knew who had allergies. And they loved him….[A parent of a student] said that one of her children has a sensory processing disorder that makes it hard for him to make eye contact and show affections. But with Castile? Her child would fist-bump him, she said, and hug his legs. Her son felt safe with Castile, she said.”
Another mother of a student called him “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks.”
But over the last fourteen years or so, this “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks” had been pulled over and stopped by the police 52 times. He’d been given citations for speeding, driving without a muffler, not wearing a seatbelt. He accrued $6,588 in fines and fees. Half of his 86 violations were dismissed by the court.
Most blacks and people of color would argue that Castile’s record shows clear evidence that he had been a victim of racial profiling. Many blacks believe that what happened to Castile could just as easily have happened to them.
Many whites believe the police do not act with any racial bias. Or that if there is bias on police forces, that bias stems from only a few “bad cops.”
But even these whites cannot dispute this: Philando Castile was not the robbery suspect that officer Yanez suspected him to be.
Psychological studies have shown that racial bias can be expressed in two ways. One way is conscious or explicit bias. The other is unconscious or implicit bias. Until recently, discussions on racism have focused on explicit bias.
In “Faces of Black Children as Young as Five Evoke Negative Biases” on the Association for Psychological Science web page, the article reports on research published in Psychological Science:
Previous research has shown that people are quicker at categorizing threatening stimuli after seeing Black faces than after seeing White faces, which can result in the misidentification of harmless objects as weapons. Todd and colleagues wanted to find out whether the negative implicit associations often observed in relation to Black men would also extend to Black children.
The researchers presented 64 White college students with two images that flashed on a monitor in quick succession. The students saw the first image — a photograph of a child’s face – which they were told to ignore because it purportedly just signaled that the second image was about to appear. When the second image popped up, participants were supposed to indicate whether it showed a gun or a toy, such as a rattle. The photographs of children’s faces included six images of Black five-year-old boys and six images of White five-year-old boys.
The data revealed that the student participants tended to be quicker at categorizing guns after seeing a Black child’s face than after seeing a White child’s face. Participants also mistakenly categorized toys as weapons more often after seeing images of Black boys than after seeing images of White boys.
The problem with implicit bias is that, by definition, the person is unaware that he or she holds such a bias. This bias acts beyond the person’s conscious control. It is conditioned or created by the ways our society depicts whites as different from blacks,. This difference can show up anywhere—in books, in news, in films or television, in education, in social media, in everyday conversations, etc. Just as importantly, because this bias is unconscious in many whites, it is difficult to prove to them that such a bias exists inside them—unless they themselves have taken a test for implicit bias or have come upon the psychological research on implicit bias.
Blacks and other people of color have little trouble believing that implicit or unconscious bias exists. We are aware when white people treat us or other people of color differently than fellow whites even if the white people who do this are unaware they are doing so. There’s a correlative to this in the old black saying, “I don’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”
Most blacks and people of color believe racial bias in policing stems from an explicit bias which is far greater in police forces than is acknowledged and from an implicit bias which many police and whites do not even recognize or know about.
In other words, blacks believe many police do not see blacks as they actually are, but instead see blacks through a number of racial biases or filters. Thus, the conscious or unconscious belief that black people are more dangerous and more prone to criminal acts becomes a self-fulfilling lens.* Any number of statistics demonstrate this. For instance, whites and blacks smoke marijuana at exactly the same rate, but blacks are four times likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped for minor traffic violations.* Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow contains many more statistics like this.
But the evidence of such statistics or the psychological studies on implicit bias have done little to change the behavior or training of police in our country. Though there is some willingness these days to try to address these inequities, clearly most of the speakers at the recent Republican convention did not believe there is any bias at all in the actions of police. In their view, the police must be supported at all times; the actions of officer Yanez must be justified a priori—that is, assumed to be legal and devoid of any racial bias.
Assuming police unions would allow this—and that’s a big assumption—what if police officers could be tested for implicit bias? As has been shown by psychological studies, it’s not just whites who possess a racial bias towards blacks. A significant portion of people of color and even of blacks also possess such a bias. Clearly, such a bias keeps the police for accurately seeing the people they are dealing with. One would think that quality policing depends upon an accurate assessment of reality.
Of course, we know that police actions are not judged solely by this criteria. Political and citizen pressure, police unions, various interested parties, are more concerned with the safety of whites or more well to do citizens than they are about the rights of black citizens, particular economically disenfranchised black citizens.
But let us suppose hypothetically that there is value in a racially unbiased police force and that, in order to do this, we must take measures to rid the police force of explicit and implicit biases. We already have some measures of rooting out the most egregious or obvious examples of explicit bias. But we also know that in general, at least until the recent rise of Trump, most Americans know they should not express explicit racial bias in public. The police are no different. So there are police who hold explicit bias against blacks, but they keep such bias confined to private conversations, and they rely on the blue code of silence to protect them. Thus, the only way to find such people is with a test for implicit bias, because such tests bypass conscious concealing of bias.
Obviously, then a problem arises. It is almost certain that a significant portion of the police force exhibits evidence of implicit racial bias. How significant we do not know, since the police have never been tested for this.*
But even if they are tested, what do we do then? How do we root out implicit bias? As Destiny Peery, Assistant Professsor of Law and Pyschology, at Northwestern University writes in The Huffington Post:
Many researchers who study implicit bias for a living, including the creators of the primary implicit bias measure, the Implicit Association Test (IAT), caution against seeing implicit bias as the newest one-size-fits-all approach to solving issues of bias and diversity. These researchers argue that implicit bias is helpful to the extent that it adds to our toolkit for understanding how bias operates, but research has not progressed to the point of suggesting concrete, long-term ways to eradicate these biases. In other words, we must remember that implicit bias training is not able to de-bias participants, no matter how well-meaning they are. After decades of research, we still don’t really know how to get rid of these biases, especially biases like implicit racial and gender biases, given that they, and the stereotypes that maintain them, are so pervasive.
While not much is known about how to de-bias people, a lot more is known about how to protect against bias. Here awareness matters, so teaching people about implicit bias can help, but what matters more is creating policies and procedures where decision-makers can check their biases and insulate against them. The National Center for State Courts gets it right, publishing a report on strategies to reduce the influence of implicit bias that focuses on inoculating against bias rather than de-biasing. Their strategies focus on changing policies and procedures in courtrooms that create conditions where bias is less likely to have an influence or can be stopped more easily.
In other words, police can be tested for implicit bias and training to combat implicit bias could be instituted, but such measures will not solve the problem of implicit bias. Implicit bias is rooted too deep in our culture. This bias stems from and is created by the society around us, its beliefs and practices, the ways it depicts whites and blacks and other people of color. It is difficult for police training to dismantle their implicit bias if, the minute they step outside the door of the training sessions, they are bombarded with messages confirming their implicit bias.
Moreover, the cultures of most police departments would not be open to such training. Thus, while we should continue to try different ways to combat implicit racial bias on the part of police, we should also take measures to mitigate the effects of that bias. This means we need to focus not just on the individual police officer and his or her racial attitudes and beliefs, but on the entire practice of policing in this country.
One example of this shift in police policy is Campaign Zero’s 10 point platform on police reform. These ten points include:
- End broken windows policing: This would include decriminalizing activities that do not threaten public safety, such as loitering, marijuana possession, jaywalking, etc, and ending profiling and “stop and frisk” policies.*
- Community oversight.
- Limit use of force: e.g., “Deadly force should only be authorized after all other possible means have been exhausted.”
- Independently investigate and prosecute: The prosecution of police should not be directed by offices that work directly with the police.
- Community representation.
- Body cams/Film the police.
- Training: Both to combat implicit racial bias and to teach techniques in crisis intervention, conflict resolution and de-escalation, etc.*
- End for-profit policing: In Ferguson, the police department budget depended upon the income from traffic citations and other minor offenses.
- Demilitarization: Jeronimo Yanez took a militarized seminar titled “The Bulletproof Warrior” which “urged the lawn enforcement officers…to make the decision to shoot if they ever feel their lives are threatened.”
- Fair police union contracts: “Remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight. Keep officers’ disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public.”
It is clearly time for a call for national police reform. Whether that call will be heeded is not clear.
Still, in my mind, rather than focusing on police reform, I keep going back to Philando Castile. How conservative websites trumpet headlines about him like this: “Confirmed-Philando Castile was an Armed Roberry Suspect—False Media Narrative Now Driving Cop Killings”.* To such conservatives, the fact that Philando Castile did not rob the convenience store is a “moot point.” So, presumably, is the fact that he was a beloved cafeteria manager at the J.J. Hill School. To such conservatives, he was a “robbery suspect” with dread locks and not “Mr. Rogers with dread locks.”
What’s important to note here is this: In the conservative narrative, there is no room for Philando Castile to be considered “innocent.” The fact that Officer Yanez suspected Castile of being a robbery suspect is sufficient and renders all other considerations “moot.”
Such a mindset, unfortunately, is part of America’s legacy. Historically, this nation has had a difficult time seeing black people—seeing them as human beings, as free people, as citizens, as something other than a long list of negative stereotypes, chief among them blacks as inherently criminal. As Khalil Gibran Muhammad demonstrates in The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, after the emancipation of blacks, a whole body of racial science arose which purported to prove that black criminals were not simply individuals but proof of the criminality of the entire black race. In contrast, white criminals were seen as individuals rather than as indicative of any racial characteristics for whites. Muhammad writes: “The idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America. In nearly every sphere of life it impacted how people defined fundamental differences between native whites, immigrants, and blacks….Moreover, the various ways in which writers and reformers imagined black people as inferior to and fundamentally different from native whites and immigrants in the early twentieth centuries had a direct impact on allocation of social resources for preventing crime in all communities….Thoughtful, well funded crime prevention and politically accountable crime fighting secured immigrants’ whiteness, in contrast to the experiences of blacks, who were often brutalized or left unprotected and were repeatedly told to conquer their own crime before others would help them.” In many ways, the stereotypes and ideology of this nineteenth century racial science are still present today.
Explicit or implicit bias both produce blindness and blinders, false filters and lenses, not clear or true sight. Every adult black person in America knows that this blindness can come into play any time they encounter a police officer. Every black adult knows that in that encounter, their life may be held in the balance by someone who does not see that black person, who, because of our history and the presence of that history in the present, might see that black person not just as guilty or a criminal, but as a threat to that officer’s very existence. And no matter how they behave, that black person has no control ultimately over how that police officer views that black person. It is a terrifying situation to find oneself caught up in. And it occurs daily in America.
Or in the life of this one 32 year old black man, it had occurred some 52 times. The 53nd time proved fatal. It was as if the odds had caught up with Philando Castile.
And yet, despite being the victim of racial profiling by the police, Castile had greeted the white children and white parents of J.J. Hill with a smile, with the natural warmth of his personality. He tried to see each of the students as individuals, remembered who had allergies, and who were the parents of the kids who had allergies.
According to Rebecca Penfold Murray, a parent of two five year old children at the J.J. Hill school, Castile appeared to know every student’s name: “When you see 400 kids a day and you can remember those details about them, I think that you really care about how those kids are doing. It’s preposterous for anyone to die violently, but I am still unable to wrap my head around the fact that his happened to a person like him.” Hill parent Angie Checco de Souza reports that her six year old said, “’Mom, can you tell the police that they were wrong. This is our guy, who served us lunch at J.J. Hill Montessori School.”
Think of how Castile woke up each day and greeted those kids. Think about how he woke up each day and got into his car to go to work knowing he might be stopped by the police for any number of reasons, some perhaps legitimate, but others dismissed by the courts, who would not be inclined to necessarily take his word against the police who stopped him. But he was not bitter about this. Though his mother states that she thinks he was constantly stopped for “driving while black,” he did not take up her advice to make an official complaint about such bias. Partly she believes this is because he drove for several years without a valid license. But she also says it wasn’t his nature to complain. “He didn’t quite look at it as being profiled,” she says.
Personally, I don’t quite understand how Castile coped with this contradiction. He seems to be one of those people who tried to make the best of things, to treat others with respect and care, with openness and warmth, even if the world around him did not always treat him in the same way. This is not, I would argue, the picture the general public would have if they were simply given the information that this black man had been stopped 52 times by the police in fourteen years.
Whatever the courts decide, I believe officer Yanez did not see Philando Castile as he actually was or even entertain that Castile might be such a person. And this failure of imagination, this failure to entertain an alternative picture of who a black man with dreadlocks in a car might actually be, is related to this: Yanez did not see soon enough that Castile was not accompanied by another male, but by a woman and a four year old child. It also appears that Yanez did not possess the instinct in his brain to reassess the situation; he did not possess the impulse to wait a moment longer, just to test the accuracy of his assumptions and the ways those assumptions colored his sight.
Yes, every day police put their lives at risk to enforce the law, to protect citizens. But Philando Castile was also a citizen, whose life needed protecting. Yes, I as a civilian cannot know what it is like to live with the fear that police experience. But I can imagine a police officer who would not have acted as officer Yanez.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Yanez had been trained to be such an officer. He wasn’t trained to recognize or combat any racial bias he might have had, and certainly not any implicit or unconscious bias. Instead, Yanez had gone through a course, “The Bulletproof Warrior,” which instructed him to shoot whenever he felt his life was threatened, and thus, he learned not to question whether his feelings might be inaccurate, might be conditioned by explicit or implicit racial bias.
With such training, the possibility of seeing the J.J. Hill Phil, “our Phil,” was ruled out before Yanez ever encountered Philando Castile. In this way, Yanez’s actions and his mindset reflect not just on him personally, but on the culture around him—both the greater culture and the police culture; his actions stem from the training he received and our collective failure to root out racial biases from our society.
I don’t believe Yanez consciously wanted to kill Philando Castile. But that Yanez did so was not an accident. It was pre-ordained by our America’s failure to deal with its racial problems. It was pre-ordained by the blindness that resided in Yanez, perhaps in his unconscious rather than his conscious mind, but still, just as problematic and fatal for Philando Castile.
Our laws may say “innocent until proven guilty,” but in practice, what occurs for blacks and other people of color is more often “guilty until proven innocent.” Despite our Constitution and its rights, our laws are applied by fallible human beings, by human beings conditioned by a racist society and culture which has failed throughout its history to see blacks and other people of color as innocent.
Philando Castile was innocent. Tragically, the society around him is still guilty of not seeing that fact.
* Star Tribune: “It appears at first glance that St. Anthony police are targeting black people for arrest.
Data released by the Minneapolis suburb last week show that 41 percent of the people whom St. Anthony police arrested last year were black — nearly seven times what one might expect, given that they make up about 6 percent of residents in the department’s patrol area.
Yet nearly every Twin Cities metro-area police department exhibits a racial disparity in its arrest rates, according to a Star Tribune analysis of recently released FBI Uniform Crime Reports data for serious crimes. Minneapolis, St. Paul and inner-ring suburbs had the highest disparities, which diminished in exurban areas….
“There are not studies out there today that readily document overt racial bias,” Frase said at a June 7 seminar at the U on racial disparities in law enforcement. “But there is study after study after study out there demonstrating implicit racial bias when it comes to decisionmaking” at every stage of Minnesota’s criminal justice system, he said.
Implicit bias occurs when police target high-crime areas, Frase said in an interview. Those are largely poor areas in the Twin Cities, which have higher minority populations. When police find guns or drugs, it ratifies their judgment, leaving them with a predisposition to stop similar people in those areas.”
* New York Times, Olevia Boykin, Christopher Desir and Jed Rubenfeldjan: “In the seven states that collect the most comprehensive data on traffic stops, analysts have found often-striking disparities in how African-American drivers are treated. In two of the states, Connecticut and Rhode Island, changes in traffic enforcement followed.
There has been no such change in Minnesota. A state-commissioned study in 2003 found that minority drivers were more likely than white drivers to be both stopped and searched, even though officers found contraband more often when searching white drivers.
Myron Orfield, a University of Minnesota professor who was a co-author of the study, said that the findings strongly suggested widespread racial and ethnic bias in traffic enforcement.
More recently, a study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that African-Americans and Native Americans in Minneapolis were eight times more likely than whites to be charged with a low-level infraction, such as trespassing or loitering.”
* New York Times: Olevia Boykin, Crhistopher Desire, Jed Rubenfeld report “…racial bias can affect what seems reasonable. Individuals of all races in America perceive black people as more aggressive and dangerous than white people. Studies show that black people are seen as being physically stronger and less prone to feeling pain than people of other races, and black children are often perceived to be older than they are. When faced with an armed black target, shooters are both more likely to shoot and quicker to shoot than they are when faced with an armed white target.
These biases can affect the way we think, judge and act. As a result, force that may seem unreasonable if used against a white person may seem perfectly “reasonable” when used against a black person.
One critical and common-sense change would be to adopt a necessity rule. The difference is simple but crucial. Even when the police have a reasonable belief that a person is dangerous, the necessity standard does not permit deadly force if non-deadly or less deadly alternatives are available and adequate to meet the threat.”
* Star Tribune: “Just 7 percent of residents are black in St. Anthony and neighboring Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, according to census data. The St. Anthony police data shows that nearly half of all arrests made by St. Anthony officers were of African-Americans in 2016. And despite a small increase in the area’s African-American population since 2010, the percentage of the department’s black arrestees has increased steadily since 2011, when a third of the people it arrested were black.” http://www.startribune.com/apnewsbreak-half-of-arrestees-where-castile-died-are-black/386667881/
* Star Tribune: “About three years ago when Joe Olson blew through a stoplight in Lauderdale, he expected what would be a routine traffic stop when he got pulled over by a St. Anthony police officer. He put his hands on the wheel, then prepared to turn his head to the left and smile.
Instead, the stop was so troubling that he later went to the then-St. Anthony police chief to tell him he may have a serious problem with how the department conducts traffic stops. But the chief, Olson said, dismissed his concern.
“I told him that if you don’t fix this, you’re going to have an even bigger problem,” Olson said. “And that’s apparently what happened.”
Olson, whose story was first reported by the Washington, D.C.-based blog ThinkProgress, is no stranger to law enforcement or firearms. A retired Hamline law professor, he’s also a gun rights lobbyist who helped write Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law. He also regularly taught classes on firearms safety that included instructions on what to do when someone carrying with a permit is pulled over.
Olson said on that day three years ago, he expected the St. Anthony officer to stand just behind the driver’s side door at the traffic stop, which is generally standard practice. Instead, the officer stood about 3 feet behind his SUV and conducted the interview through Olson’s driver’s-side mirror.
“His voice had the tremor of fear,” Olson said. “He couldn’t see my hands. He couldn’t see if anyone was in the car. I thought: This is dangerous for both of us.”” http://www.startribune.com/professor-st-anthony-police-chief-dismissed-plea-to-improve-traffic-stop-training/386079641/
* Star Tribune: “The seminar was called “The Bulletproof Warrior,” and the instructors urged the law enforcement officers in the hotel conference room to make the decision to shoot if they ever feel their lives are threatened.
Videos of bloody shootouts between police and civilians emphasized a key point: Hesitation can kill you.
In the audience at the May 2014 seminar was a young St. Anthony police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, city records show. He’s now known around the world as the officer who killed Philando Castile minutes after making a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last week.
Amid intensifying demands for changes in police training in the wake of the shooting deaths of Castile and others, such “survival” courses for officers are flourishing nationally. But some in law enforcement are distancing themselves from the approach.
The Houston Police Department, for example, won’t pay for its officers to attend the Bulletproof Warrior seminar, which is put on by an Illinois for-profit company called Calibre Press.
And the leader of an international police training association said he thinks some seminars like those offered by Calibre and other firms foster a sense of paranoia among officers.
“Police training became very militaristic and it caused a lot of the problems that are going on in the nation,” said Michael Becar, executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, with offices in Idaho and Washington, D.C.”
* The Conservative Treehouse: “In addition, Mr. Castile also matched the physical description of the suspect as given by eye witnesses:
[…] The other suspect was described as a black man with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore tan pants, tan shoes with white soles, a green jacket, a green baseball cap and glasses, the release says. He also had some of his hair pulled into a bun through the strap on the back of his hat and had a small mustache and facial hair on his chin. (link)
Similar clothes as noted on the robbery suspect are also noted in the Facebook images of Mr. Castile. However, whether Mr. Castile is actually the person who committed the armed robbery is -again- essentially a moot point…. It is with that “armed robbery suspect perspective” the approach toward the vehicle was made by officers Yanez and Kauser.
Mr. Castile, fitting the physical description, being in the same geography, generally matching the BOLO CCTV image, and then having a handgun on his thigh only made the suspicions gain exponential weight.
Any behaviors or sudden movements by Mr. Castile would only increase the anxiety and increase the officer’s perception of Castile as a threat.” This sight contents that a dark line on Castile’s lap, barely visible in the Diamond Reynolds video, is “the same type of hand gun used in the Convienced Store Armed robbery four days earlier” (in which video the gun of the robbery suspect is clearly visible).”
* Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (272-73).