Anyone who watches the video of the terrible shooting of Philando Castile and the treatment of his girlfriend has received an abject lesson on police brutality and the excessive use of force. I understand the danger policemen and policewomen face in maintaining the law. Close to 40 deadly shootings occur every day in our country. But there can be no mistake. The behavior of the policeman in this instance and in far too many instances every day throughout the land is what one would expect in a police state.
The first rule that every member of the police must obey is the fundamental tenant of our justice system — innocent until proven guilty. Philando Castile was stopped not for driving recklessly, not for resisting arrest, not for driving drunk, but for driving with a burnt out tail light. Castile then, it seems, complied fully with the officer’s request to produce his license and was shot four times in the act of reaching for his wallet. The officer then stood with his gun pointing at Castile as Castile bled to death.
According to his girlfriend, Castile explained that he had a firearm in the car, but had a permit to carry. The presence of the gun provides some context for the officer’s behavior. But it neither explains nor forgives it. Philando Castile was murdered by the policeman. He was presumed guilty before he had a chance to explain his crime — driving with a bad tail light. The policeman played judge, jury, and executioner all within the space of seconds. He should be arrested and tried for his crime — the act of manslaughter.
The only redemption available here is that Philando Castile’s death leads to immediate changes in the way police are trained, supervised, and armed. In particular, police should not be permitted to unholster their guns as standard practice. Instead, they should be issued stun guns or other non-deadly means to defend themselves in cases like this one and to subdue people who are unarmed, but are resisting arrest.
We should all say a prayer for Philando Castile, for his family and friends and for our brave, courageous, but also very troubled police forces throughout the land as well as their ever growing number of innocent victims.