I made the mistake of watching the Philando Castile video this week. The verdict had already come down and I wasn't surprised that they found the officer not guilty. That is the normal verdict after all. But watching the video was a mistake. Not only because I don't watch snuff films, and that's what that was. The man died. I knew going in that the man was going to die. I don't like watching people die. Let alone people be killed. And he was killed. Shot to death. But I shouldn't have watched because it made me angry.
What did they see?
What were they looking at?
You can hear Mr. Castile talking. He's very calm. He's not agitated. He's making the officer aware of his gun. That we in America are so proud to have to right to carry. So many guns out there in these great United States that every time a cop makes a traffic stop they assume the person is armed. I've heard it over and over all my life as to why that makes the job so stressful. What if the person is carrying? What am I going to encounter when I walk up to the car? Well, Mr. Castile told the officer exactly what to expect. He had a gun. He was carrying. When told not to reach for it Mr. Castile said he wasn't. His dying words were that he wasn't reaching for his gun. Dying words.
So when I watched it I posted about it and I had a couple of friends state that there had to be something else the jury saw. Had to be. Because the cop shot Mr. Castile so there had to be a reason. One pointed out how scared the cop sounded. If he was scared then there had to be a reason. Had to be.
This is a problem, in my opinion. And this is why we have officer involved shootings that end up in acquittals even when you can see what happened. When you the normal everyday man on the street watches and thinks, why did you shoot them? What were you looking at?
There had to be a reason.
We are conditioned to believe our police officers. We are questioned and condemned when we don't. I have a friend who is married to a cop who will drop you like a hot potato if you post anything remotely anti-police. I have a few friends who are in law enforcement who both dropped off of social media because they felt there was too much anti-cop posting out there. And it always makes me squint a little at what is shown to be anti-cop.
I'm not anti-cop. I think cops are great. Like I said, I have friends in the law enforcement community. I know the job they do is incredibly dangerous. I know they save lives. I know they help people. I know their family members worry about them coming home at night.
I also know that not all cops are good cops.
And no cop is perfect.
They make mistakes.
And if a mistake is made and someone loses their life? Well that's a mistake that should be punished.
And more often than not it isn't.
Because there had to be something more. There had to be something else. There had to be a reason.
But what are you seeing?
Are you seeing what is there or what you think HAS to be there? What you need to believe was there so you don't have to accept that that cop was wrong. Was human and made a mistake. A serious, deadly mistake.
I do think that the cop who shot Mr. Castile was scared. You could hear it in his voice. He was terrified. But Mr. Castile hadn't done anything to warrant that fear so why was he so scared? That's the part we should have been looking to answer. Not assuming that because he was scared there had to be a reason and because of that reason he was justified to be scared so he was cleared to kill Mr. Castile. What are you seeing there? I'm seeing a man who was scared. Scared of someone calmly telling him that he was armed. Getting his license out as he was instructed. Telling him that he wasn't reaching for his gun. Which makes more sense than telling the cop he had a gun and then going to shoot him. If Mr. Castile's plan was to shoot the cop wouldn't he have had the gun out, in his hand and just shot him when he walked up to the car? Why would he tell him about the gun? What were you seeing?
And I will have people tell me I wasn't on the jury. I don't know what they heard. And they will be right. I wasn't. I don't. But as I stated when I saw the recording, I have no idea what they could have said or shown me that would make me think that was okay.
Because, here is the thing, I assume cops are better than that. I want my cops to be REALLY well trained. I want them to have cool heads when the rest of the world is freaking the fuck out. I want them to be able to maintain rational, calm, cool, collected, mannerisms when every one around them is scared. The cops I know? They can do this. It's part of their training to be able to do it. So when a shooting happens like Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott (sadly just to name a few) my first thought isn't there must be something more, my first thought is that person should not be a cop. There was a huge mistake made somewhere that let them be a cop.
You can be both pro-police and anti-bad police. In fact you should be. I've said it over and over again. Bad cops make it more dangerous for good cops. They erode the public trust. They put their partners in to dangerous situations. They bring everything down. The whole bad apple analogy. One or two bad apples spoils the bunch. You have to get rid of the bad apples. You have to be able to say, there was nothing more. He was wrong. Someone died because he was wrong.
There are times when shootings happen that are necessary. When the officers are truly in danger or other people around them are truly in danger. There are reasons why that happens. I wish that I could read a story about the shooting and know in my heart that it was justified and if it wasn't then there will be punishment. But I don't know that right now. I don't believe that right now. I think we are wrong. We, all of us, when we say, there must have been something more there. Because sometimes there isn't and we are justifying something that is unjustifiable.
He was scared.
If that is all the justification that it takes then we should all be scared.