HHF Opinion: Police shooting of Philando Castile

Written by Warnell Jones

What happened? What did Philando Castile do wrong? Is there a police protocol in Minnesota that deems an officer just when he does more than just issue a ticket for faulty equipment? Was Philando Castile in gross negligence of the law by legally owning a firearm? Is it acceptable for an officer of the law to feel threatened by a man reaching for his wallet or ID, after telling said officer he would do so?

Certainly the wrongful death of Philando Castile last week at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota has raised many questions and comments about the state of police responsibility, protocol, and racism in America.

Many have the thought and idea that this officer (we’ll call him Officer Jackass) is incapable of being an effective police officer, because this is a terribly sad example of law enforcement. This does not fit the mantra of ‘protect and serve’.

If Officer Jackass was scared because Castile had a legally owned firearm in his possession, he should’ve taken appropriate measures to seize the weapon. An ideal situation sees Officer Jackass asking Mr. Castile to keep his hands raised while the weapon was taken from him, instead of firing on him with his family in the car. In addition, Officer Jackass could have very well used non-lethal measures to subdue Mr. Castile if a threat was posed (of which there was none). This is terrible law enforcement, where a fearful officer that doesn’t know how to manage situations makes a terrible assumption that leads to murder.

If this was an isolated incident, the previous paragraph would serve as just judgment. Sadly however, history shows us many more situations like this in the revered “home of the brave”. Before this ‘smartphone era’ we didn’t have any documentation to substantiate the idea that police officers were purposely killing black people. To our dismay, the judicial system seems to be in on the plot.

It appears that ‘home’ for black people is a country where the officers of the law are allowed – often without punishment – to kill black citizens. Sure, it seems like a stretch, but in a land where “all men are created equal”, the murder of a citizen is a just cause for “due process”, right? You know, where a court examines the situation and places a fault, judgement, and punishment on one of the involved parties? All too often, the judicial system exempts these officers from this process. Yeah, the officers that wrongly take the lives of citizens. When these acts continue without judgement, are we supposed to conclude that law enforcement employees have a ‘free pass’ to kill black people? Does this ideology negate the ‘scared cop’ theory?

Either way, these facts and occurrences have drawn strong disdain from the oppressed in this situation. In a society where the privileged onlookers of these tragedies have the caveat of dismissing surveillance footage as lore without fact, the black conclusion is, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Some even feel a similar rage to their ancestors during the Civil Rights Movement. Some privileged person would pose the question, “Why?” Because 2016 & 1966 have a similar ring. Because this is an issue of civil rights. Living without wrongful persecution from the police is a civil right. We shouldn’t feel the need to protect ourselves from our ‘protectors’.

We shouldn’t feel like the police in America are looking for a reason to kill us – but I’ll be honest – I don’t have much credible information to support that claim.

How do we turn these thoughts and feelings around? What measures need to be taken to prevent these heinous acts in the future?


Detroit-based Warnell Jones has always loved writing: having kept journals, notes and lists of his thoughts for years. (Some long gone now), he loves seeing his mindstate in retrospect as he goes back and reads his past thoughts. His passions and what he hopes to write about: hip-hop (all four elements) R&B, race relations, social change, education, food, fitness and love.  

Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

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