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In the wake of Philando Castile’s death, Minnesotans must address implicit racism — now, not after an investigation

REUTERS/Eric Miller
Demonstrators chanting during a Black Lives Matter protest in front of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul on Thursday.

My son called me this morning, and he was quite upset. He told me about the shooting of another young black man in the Twin Cities. Philando Castile, 32, was the same age as my son. Both are hardworking young men. But Castile was black, and my son is white.

Castile appears to have been shot and killed for driving while black. It is my understanding that when Castile was pulled over by the police officer, Castile volunteered to the officer that he had a handgun and a permit to carry it. Was the officer now fearful that a young black man with his girlfriend and young child in the car with him, and who had even volunteered he had a gun in the vehicle with a permit, was somehow going to now grab the gun and shoot the officer? That is, frankly and tragically, unbelievable. The officer supposedly told Castile not to move, and when Castile did, he immediately shot him.

Maybe this is where we as a community are given the “but” explanation? But what? Castile should not have been a 32-year-old working guy driving while black and legally carrying a gun in his vehicle — that he told police about? The sad irony is that Castile might still be alive if he had not voluntarily told the police officer he had a gun and permit — or if he had been white like my son.

Don’t wait; take action

When will white Minnesota claim and meaningfully address its systemic racism that is killing our black friends and neighbors? Gov. Mark Dayton has now apparently called for a federal investigation and stated this is unacceptable. Maybe that is a good idea. But this response, unfortunately, and with all due respect to our governor, feels to me like it just continues to pay lip service and nibble around the edges at what continues to be an ongoing crisis. And I say that as a Democrat who likes Gov. Dayton. When do we all finally say “enough”?

Many may say, “Wait for the full investigation.” But we’ve seen that, and its brokenness. What if the governor did something bold, like called a special session to address the crisis of our black Minnesota citizens who are not just receiving systemically discriminatory treatment in our schools, employment and the criminal justice system, but are being killed? Seems to me this is more important than the current political posturing about transportation or bonding and what actually should be included in any special session.

Tom Fiebiger

As a start, we need implicit bias training for all officers and the will to provide the money to fund it. There’s a national initiative being undertaken right now to try to address such implicit bias issues in Minneapolis. We can require our police officers to live in the city they work in, so it’s their community. Local governments can’t require that of their police officers; it takes legislative action. Let’s fund community-policing initiatives so officers know the people they are hired to serve and protect. We can and must help our police officers to be better at their difficult jobs. Black citizens’ lives are depending on it.

Do something.

Show up and demand change

Those of us who continue to enjoy our white privilege and claim to love our state of Minnesota need to get off the couch and Facebook, quit telling people we’re not racists, and actually show up and demand change. We participate daily in systems that foster racism. It’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s our problem, and until we demand real change, the killing will continue. That’s not a tolerable outcome for any Minnesotan, regardless of the color of your skin.

The words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. continue to ring true all these years later: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Tom Fiebiger lives in Minneapolis and is a recovering civil rights lawyer and politician, having spent 25 years representing workers in North Dakota and Minnesota that were discriminated against. He also served a term in the North Dakota Senate.


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Comments (56)

  1. Submitted by rolf westgard on 07/07/2016 - 03:33 pm.

    The change

    we need is a reduction in the crime rate of young black males. The police are obviously apprehensive when approaching them. Obviously that doesn’t justify shooting a helpless suspect, but we would all be wise to heed a policeman’s instructions. And don’t fight a policeman, you will lose. We also have no need to carry guns as we go about our daily lives.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/07/2016 - 04:56 pm.

      Other Changes

      Perhaps the police need to be trained better, so that they know how to approach a driver in a stopped car?

      Perhaps a burned out taillight doesn’t merit a stop in every case? The last time a police officer took notice of a burned out light on my car, he leaned out the window and told me I need to get that fixed. Of course, I’m an old white guy, so there was no need to be apprehensive.

      “Obviously that doesn’t justify shooting a helpless suspect . . .” That should go without saying, “[B]ut we would all be wise to heed a policeman’s instructions.” The conjunction “but” is used to negate what was said in the prior clause. It serves as an introduction to a contradiction.

      • Submitted by Moira Heffron on 07/08/2016 - 02:51 pm.

        Definitely training

        Community policing is not the issue in this shooting. Being stopped for the taillight is pretty much text book pretext. But how does an officer handle it, that is the question. And now that Minnesota is on the bandwagon and guns are everywhere, what training specifically has been provided to officers as well as gun owners about this interaction? The instructions given by officer should be examined. Some better alternative scenarios could have resulted from different approaches, which have been pointed to elsewhere.

    • Submitted by charles thompson on 07/07/2016 - 07:42 pm.


      Victim was not young. Skip the generalization. No indication he was non cooperative. Had a permit to carry, very popular with the NRA and the republican Senate, though not with the national Sheriffs organization. What kind of person assumes a man with a bad tail light, traveling with a women and a small child is quick draw McGraw. Honky please…

  2. Submitted by Paul Frere on 07/07/2016 - 05:00 pm.

    Simple Solutions

    I was told many years ago: To every complex problem there is a simple solution, usually wrong. This article is a poster child.

    Rolf is correct; It is statistically reasonable for a police officer to be more apprehensive when dealing with a black male that when he/she is dealing with someone of another race. Fact. Regrettable, but still a fact.

    “It is my understanding that when Castile was pulled over by the police officer, Castile volunteered to the officer that he had a handgun and a permit to carry it.” Really? Your understanding? Based on what? Based on one understandably upset and biased person’s statement? You claim to be a lawyer. Would you allow a client to be convicted based on this type of hearsay”understanding?”

    “Driving while black?” It was night. I don’t know about you, but I can’t look into a car ahead of me at night and tell whether the driver is black, white, or purple. Mr. Lawyer, can you do better? Do you think this cop can do better? Would you allow a client to be convicted based on someone’s opinion that someone else knew, at night, that the driver was black? I didn’t think so.

    From what we know, this killing looks like a horrible error. Key words: “looks like.” If the first and incomplete information turns out to be correct, much of what has been said prematurely might well turn out to be true. But, Mr. Lawyer, we don’t know that now.

    “Implicit bias training?” Sounds good. Maybe even it is good. Is there evidence that this genre of training is effective? Are there particular regimens that are known to be effective? Or is this recommendation to spend money just based on a “feel good” factor? Show me it’s worthwhile and effective and I’ll support it. But you, as a lawyer, should be ashamed of this article.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/07/2016 - 07:08 pm.

      Time of shooting

      Did you look at the video? Or at any of the stills?

      It was still light out.

      There goes your idea that the cop couldn’t see the color of the driver he was pulling over due to lack of daylight.

  3. Submitted by charles thompson on 07/07/2016 - 05:19 pm.


    An armed officer initiates a traffic stop for a minor equipment defect, and then shoots a man traveling in a car with a woman and a small child? Rolfs comments are the worst. Minnesota nice and racist. The man was not particularly young, and many of our fellow citizens carry handguns, with the laws permission. Bang bang shoob shoob – The Beatles

  4. Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/07/2016 - 06:35 pm.

    The problem with “something”

    The issue with calling to do “something” is that it is often he same as actually doing nothing. Demanding change is pointless without actionable specificity. The problem is largely that there is little agreement on what should be done to address systemic racism in a country built of systems which are so overwhelming complex. The problem with advocacy in such general and broad terms is that it takes away energy and time from the specific issues which if felt with would mean positive progress that actually manifest. Yes, talking about specifics can mean deeper more nuanced conversations that often require open minds. Given some of the mechanics of policies which are implemented through the politics by popularity open minds and nuance are in short supply. The mechanics of getting political power require developing followers that have fundamentally closed their minds to alternative solutions and meet nuance with brute force.

    So, if we want to reduce systemic racism specifically with policing, here would be my priorities. One, end the militarization of the police force by eliminating policing for profit through civil forfeiture. Two, end the drug war by eliminating all mandatory minimums, three strike type laws and by decriminalizing most drugs. Three, higher pay and higher standards for police officers. Everything from physical conditioning to philosophical education. The police force needs to actually be the most dedicated and honest people we can find and if we need to pay them more than doctors or governors to secure our civility so be it. Four, independent for investigating and prosecuting crimes by police officers. This would need to include prosecutors who don’t work on regular case that require cooperation with the force on which the involved officer serves. Include with this the idea of zero tolerance for officers convicted of violent crimes. Bar fight, domestic abuse, terroristic threats, etc. would all mean the loss of their job and all accumulated retirement funds. Add to that a law that makes covering up for crimes by other officers a felony with penalties that rival murder. Justified public trust in the system is the most valuable thing for a civil society and the rule of law.

  5. Submitted by Scot Wilcoxon on 07/07/2016 - 07:17 pm.


    Maybe you should wait and find out what needs to be changed.
    * He was no driving while black, unless he was driving from the passenger seat.
    * He was shot at sunset, it was not dark outside. Look at the video.

    We now know what went wrong when the Titanic sank. Should passenger ships have been ordered to change something, anything, before the problem was examined?

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/07/2016 - 08:07 pm.

      Front facing camera

      He was the driver. The video was shot from the phone’s front facing camera which reverses the image.

    • Submitted by Joseph Totten on 07/08/2016 - 08:12 am.

      He Had the Steering Wheel

      He had a steering wheel in front of him, and the video was shared on Facebook Live, and while Facebook Live uses the front camera (the one you’d use for a selfie) it is a mirror image of what is happening. This mirror effect causes words to be backwards and steering wheels to be on the wrong side of the car.

      Maybe we should follow the Dallas Police’s lead in how to actually do community policing in a large city? That their officers were targeted is especially sad, as the department has been working harder than any other to end these implicit biases.

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 07/08/2016 - 07:07 am.

    There is no way this young 32 old man

    should be dead!! What ever happened in the small confines of that front seat didn’t require shooting him. He did what you are taught in conceal/carry classes, he informed the officer that he was carrying a gun and had a permit. You are taught that until the gun is in the hands of the officer to be ultra careful in any actions you take because once a gun is introduced into the stop, tension rise dramatically. I know cops are trained on how to handle folks with permits to carry guns but this particular police officer panicked and shot an innocent man.

    This doesn’t make all cops racists and all white folks racists, this makes one cop, a bad cop, who looks like he panicked. I refuse to believe this incident makes all the great men who wear a badge no matter if you are black, white, brown, yellow, pink or purple racists. This incident along with the shooting of police officers in Dallas, will fan the flames of race baiters every where. Claiming the police are hunting young black men is ridiculous, this is a case of ONE cop who made a huge mistake that took a life that will never come back and he should pay for that decision.

    We give our police officers a huge amount of responsibility and they need to held to a higher standard than average citizens. Let the investigation proceed and facts come out but don’t claim systematic racism because One cop panicked and took an innocent life.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/08/2016 - 08:14 am.

      Systemic racism/bias

      I mostly agree with your observations that this officer panicked and made the worst possible decisions in the moment.

      However, I disagree that racism played no part. What the existence of systemic racism/bias does is to heighten the underlying tensions present in the frame of mind of a person about to have an interaction with a black person, so that even before the officer reached the driver’s window, he was almost certainly on a higher level of alert than he might otherwise have been. And then, within this mindset of heightened tension, when the additional element of the information about the gun was introduced, the officer panicked.

      Yes, officers need to be held to a higher standard. And part of this higher standard needs to be a deepened awareness of how their own inherent biases can influence their reactions so that they can remain vigilant against the possibility of their own missteps in situations such as the tragedy that played out in Falcon Heights on Wednesday evening.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 07/08/2016 - 08:39 am.

        Pat, what device do you suggest folks use to judge

        the content of an individual’s heart or mind? How do you know this particular police officer was not comfortable with black people? Do you know his background? Just because he is white doesn’t mean he has a hidden racial agenda versus black men. If the cop was black and the victim white would be as quick to call the black officer a racist or that he had a systematic racist bias towards the white guy?

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/08/2016 - 09:12 am.

          Implicit bias studies

          I don’t have time right now to deeply research an answer to your question. However, a quick search on “studies into implicit bias” yielded these studies:

          We’re all human. We all hold implicit biases of one kind or another.

          Holding officers to a higher standard means asking them to be aware of their own implicit biases and prepare themselves to avoid making the kind of missteps this implicit bias can lead to.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 07/08/2016 - 09:46 am.

            So are you saying that police officers do not go through enough training? Are you saying that only white cops should patrol ” white areas” and black officers patrol ” black neighborhoods”? How does a generalized study impact this particular case? Are you saying if a person is white he cannot be a cop because of implicit bias? Do you know if this police officer read fair and impartial policing or some other study or book?

            He panicked and needs to be held accountable, the contents of his heart or mind are not available for us to evaluate…. Calling it implicit racism is knee jerk and helps nothing.

            • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/08/2016 - 10:33 am.


              Denying that implicit racism exists is knee jerk and helps nothing.

              • Submitted by Tim Milner on 07/08/2016 - 11:37 am.

                In 2014

                Office Scott Patrick pulled over a black man in Mendota Hts for a routine traffic violation. He was shot and killed in cold blood.

                Do you believe things like this don’t have a lasting impact on our police officers? Make them just a little more edgy than maybe they should be? And what type of training compensates for that feeling?

                Unfortunately, as witnessed today in Dallas, extreme things do happen – to people of all colors. We need to get back to a healthy dose of respect for everyone – including a respect for those in authority positions – police, teacher, etc. Because where we are heading is a place I simply don’t want to be.

                • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/08/2016 - 11:46 am.


                  There are almost certainly police training programs out there to help officers become aware of their implicit biases and deal with them in a safe and healthy way.

                  Of course, implementing such programs costs money . . . . . . .

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/08/2016 - 01:51 pm.

                  Scott Patrick

                  Officer Patrick was murdered by Brian Fitch. He looks awfully white to me.

                  I know it’s convenient to think otherwise, but facts are stubborn things.

              • Submitted by joe smith on 07/08/2016 - 01:23 pm.

                I will leave it with this

                one size never has fit everyone and never will. To call this officer a bad cop is understandable to claim implicit racism (one size fits all) is silly and only causes more issues. As I stated, you do not know this cop or anything about him. One size does not fit all.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/08/2016 - 09:13 pm.

        Officer was not “white”

        How does it affect things for you to find out that the officer was not “white”?

        Officer Jeronimo Yanez has been variously identified by eye-witnesses as Chinese, Asian, American Indian, and Latino.

        And the only people who seem to want to identify him as “white” are trying to force this into a “white/black” issue.

        Is he the relatively-inexperienced minority-identified officer brought in to diversify the police force ?

        Or is he a “self-loathing” minority that has integrated the systemic racism of the white power clique?

        What say ye ?

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/09/2016 - 07:00 am.

          Is this directed to me?

          You may or may not see this answer, since the moderators are choosing not to post about half of my entirely benign responses in this thread, but here goes:

          My understanding is that there are studies out there (not going digging for them right now as MPR has a basically worthless “Search” function – this is my understanding from lots of public radio listening) that have established that unacknowledged implicit biases of all kinds are widespread. And that they don’t necessarily have to fit into any of the “scenarios” you propose – they just “are”.

          Saying this officer’s panicked reaction may very well have been influenced by his implicit biases (whether he was aware of them or not) is not the same thing as leveling the charge of “bad cop” against him. But it is a problem.

          In fact, one program on the air yesterday spent some time discussing the dangers of unacknowledged implicit biases. We want to deny they exist. But we do so at our peril. Because a problem cannot be solved until and unless it is first acknowledged.

          Implicit bias will probably always be with us. The answer is not to eradicate it but to become aware of its existence and the way it can affect our thoughts and actions. And then to always seek to rise above it.

          And police officers hold a heightened responsibility to develop this self awareness due to their privileged status in our society.

          Unfortunately, as I also pointed out, the kind of training that would assist in this requires the kinds of resources (i.e. $$$) which our decision-makers are loathe to spend.

          Until that kind of short-sighted thinking changes, I guess I’m not sure where we go from here.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/08/2016 - 07:50 am.

    As a lawyer, you should know that in these sort of instances, it all comes down to what the officer thought, what the officer thought they heard, and what the officer thought they saw during the incident. And all of that has to be filtered though the light of the officer’s experience and training. And then it has to be adjusted to the great human unknown of lizard-brain reaction to a perceived threat to one’s life.

    And that is why it is such a very high hurdle to get a criminal conviction in such incidents.

    It is extremely unlikely that the officer went on duty with an intent to stop and shoot a black man that day or made some such statement or demonstration of that intent during their service.

    And that is why it is so very unlikely that a civil-rights violation will be in such cases.

    These are people given the duty of decision–mistakes without intent or malice are possible every day.

  8. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/08/2016 - 09:34 am.

    Unreasonable fear

    It may be that what the officer did was not through evil intent, but irrational fear. I can’t condemn the officer to hell (even if it were within my power) for being completely unsuitable for being a cop, and being irrationally afraid while armed. However, what he did was wrong. Deadly wrong. So wrong that, whoever put this individual in the position to use deadly force in the face of irrational fear of black men should be fired for incompetence.

    The fact of the matter is that, unless the girlfriend had a story put together prior to the shooting with the expectation that they were going to go out into the world that day and her boyfriend would get killed, there’s no reason to believe that her story is completely false. The video laid out what happened, neither officer denied her statement, which were given in disbelief, but calmly and without threat. Even if half of what she said in that video were true, Philando’s death was completely unjustified.

    It may be that many officers have an irrational fear of black men. In this case, it’s clear that the cop knows he royally screwed up and sounds genuinely distraught about it. But he, and others, simply should not be cops if they hold an irrational fear of any particular group of people. In fact, cops should be accepting of the fact that their job is, in part, to put their lives on the line and so, even if there is a greater risk of violence from a particular group of people, that does not justify shooting first and asking questions later. Sometimes a cop has to trade his/her life for someone else’s. That’s how it should work, and if a cop is so afraid of that concept that they can’t control their trigger finger, then they should not be cops. I agree with Dan, above, that cops should be diamonds in the rough, and treated with the appropriate respect, not just any Joe Schmoe without a criminal record.

    For sure, there are lots and lots of good cops. But there are too many bad cops (morally or otherwise). We need to do “something.” But I also agree with Dan that “something” is too vague. Look at what happened in Dallas. It was something. A something that was so wrong, I can’t even comprehend. Enough of the vague “somethings.” If people are going to opine publicly, and I mean everyone (including my least favorite Black Lives Matters persona, Nekima Levy-Pounds), be specific about what “something” means to individuals. We don’t have the direct power to make laws or fund programs. So, help us direct our anger and frustration positively.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/08/2016 - 02:20 pm.

      You certainly expect a lot from a civil servant making 50 or 60 K a year.

      Always pure in thought and deed. Alway above average in intelligence, judgement and reaction. Plus, willing to give up their life in an instant, erring on the side of their own death as opposed to the other person.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/08/2016 - 03:36 pm.


        We should expect a lot from people in law enforcement. It is a crucial responsibility.

        What is our option? “Heck, they’re only going to make 50 or 60 K a year. Let’s not be too fussy about their ethics. And at that price, we can’t be too picky about intelligence, judgment, or reaction. Looks like we’re going to have to take anyone with a pulse and give them a gun and the power to arrest.”

        I feel safer already.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/08/2016 - 08:32 pm.

          Well, I suggest you acquaint yourself with life among humans and all of their flaws, failures, weaknesses and errors. It comes with the species. Not everyone is the best at what they do. People make mistakes every day, all over the world. People make mistakes while they do things they think they know how to do–I know I do.

          Soldiers make mistakes.

          Tailors make mistakes.

          Carpenters make mistakes.

          Truck drivers make mistakes.

          Car drivers, too.

          Engineers make mistakes.

          Doctors make mistakes.

          Lawyers make mistakes.

          Generals make mistakes.

          Presidents make mistakes.

          On and on. And some of those cost lots of lives, and in most instances the mistake-maker had more time than a second or two to make the mistake and involved more people in the process of mistake-making.

          Police do not come from some magically gifted subspecies. And they just happen to work in a job where a split second sole decision can have fatal consequences. There really is very few ways of knowing how they will react, especially when their 4 year old career has mainly consisted of giving out tickets. They are selected through a testing and training process.

          But in the end, it comes down to what the officer thought, what he thought he heard, and what he thought he saw.

          While you may want the clear answer of “racism”, it is far more likely that the answer is a murky “human error”.

          And what do you do about that ?

          • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/09/2016 - 03:50 pm.

            here is what I think

            A person I grew up with defends his right to carry a concealed weapon. If he had been stopped by that policeman, with his wife and a child in the car, said what Philandro had said and did, he would not have been shot 4 times because he is white. You can try slice it anyway you want to but it still comes down to the face the policeman in this case overreacted to something no policeman should do and still remain a policeman. He’s unfit to be a policeman. I suggest two things, the MMPI-II for every policeman yearly ((at least) to judge his or her ability to remain sane in any given situation. It’s for their own good also. Every policeman must wear a camera and it should be made available to the public regardless of bias against it for any reason the very next day. It does two things, it makes both the police and the public aware that if they do something wrong it will be clear to everyone. Not just that the police are being singled out but that whoever they stop is also being singled out in the case of a citizen being shot dead. That is nothing more than rational.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/10/2016 - 08:58 pm.


              ” the face the policeman in this case overreacted to something no policeman should do and still remain a policeman”

              It may be the case, however as far as I can tell this has not been proven yet. Unless you know something we should hear.

              By the way I agree with your other comments. Unfortunately the Police Union will likely have something to say about intense performance reqts.

              • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/11/2016 - 11:52 am.

                I meant fact not ‘face’ but anyway…

                He shot a man 4 times without a valid reason other than he was ‘afraid of the gun’ which wasn’t in the hands of Philando at any time. The policeman’s police chief indicated as much by the way. Philando just told him about it which he’s supposed to do. The officer didn’t listen to what Philando was telling him. He was reaching for his ID which the policeman told him to do. It was perhaps a bad mistake and over-reaction but then he shouldn’t have been an officer in the first place.

                Once again, body camera’s are necessary as are Psych testing of all officers yearly at least and definitely before they can even become a policeman. The MMPI is a good one.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/11/2016 - 09:14 am.

            What Do You Do?

            I can tell you that what we don’t do is throw up our hands, say it’s just “human error,” and remark that we can’t expect a lot from civil servants who don’t make a lot of money (Are they losers, because they don’t make very much?).

            “But in the end, it comes down to what the officer thought, what he thought he heard, and what he thought he saw.” It also comes down to how he reacted to all of that. Therein lies the opportunity for “mistake.” Pumping four bullets into someone in a stopped car is one heck of a “mistake,” but I’ll let others deal with that.

            Yes, everyone makes mistakes. Most of us are held accountable for them. In addition, we try to minimize, as much as possible, the likelihood of those mistakes. Do doctors make mistakes? Sure, they do, but we have them do internships and residencies to make those mistakes less likely.

            We don’t look at a pharmaceutical company that sells a drug found to cause injuries and dismiss it with a “tsk, tsk–mistakes happen.” Steps are taken to correct the problem, and see that it doesn’t happen again. No one is perfect, b ut that certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/11/2016 - 01:45 pm.

              Yes, no-one is perfect and most people try.

              But, there is no test as to how someone will react in a real-life case where they feel their life is immediate danger, even if it is a complete misunderstanding. Mistakes happens, reviews are conducted and changes will be made. There is always the human element and there are always new mistakes. The assumption that this is being pushed under the rug has no basis in reality.

              Pharmaceutical “mistakes” rarely happen in a split second, unlike the shooting. And even in cases of deliberate, proven, long-term deception the culprits are almost never held criminally responsible. It’s a lawsuit and money settlement for damages, even if deaths occur.

              The calls of “Justice for Philandro” seem to assume that justice is not proceeding. Unless you speak of mob justice as being “justice”–there are no immediate forms of justice in our society. In a law-based society, the investigation, trial and sentencing/settlement all take time. If there was criminal intent there will be a criminal trial. But more than likely, it will be in the hazy area of human error. Then what ? Will there be a riot in response to that ? Is that justice ? Is the inevitable monetary settlement for a non-criminal wrongful death justice ?

              What do you think justice should be in this instance ? Does anyone really know enough about the incident right now to figure out what justice would be ?

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/13/2016 - 04:12 pm.

                “Justice for Philandro”

                “The calls of “Justice for Philandro” seem to assume that justice is not proceeding. Unless you speak of mob justice as being “justice”–there are no immediate forms of justice in our society.”

                I’m afraid I don’t get the same message. Have there been calls for immediate justice? Anyone moving to lynch the officer involved in the name of “justice? The demographics of the protesters can seem frightening for many, but I don’t see any calls for “mob justice.”

                ” If there was criminal intent there will be a criminal trial.” I think you mean criminal mindset (mens rea), as “negligence” can be a culpable state of mind. Evaluating that state of mind can be an elusive proposition.

                “But more than likely, it will be in the hazy area of human error.” Not to prejudge or anything, but “more than likely . . .” Nothing like waiting until all the facts are in.

                “Is the inevitable monetary settlement for a non-criminal wrongful death justice ?” I will leave aside the implications of your use of “inevitable,” and merely point out that the standard of proof in a civil wrongful death action is different from the standard for a criminal conviction. O.J. Simpson was acquitted, but was nonetheless held civilly liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman.

                • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/13/2016 - 10:35 pm.

                  Then perhaps you can explain how the various protests, demonstrations, road blockages and some riots are helping to ensure justice is obtained ? Should a person who is involved in determining the facts and disposition of the matter be swayed by such community reactions ? Should a person be tried and convicted on the basis of community anger ? Should the process be hastened because there are angry people ? And, this is all well before any reasonable time for investigation and review–so it seems a hasty and punitive “justice” is being demanded.

                  And, the basis of all the uproar is that the death was the result of blatant, persistent racial prejudice. Now that isn’t exactly waiting until all of the facts are in.

                  As for the probable outcome, there are about a 1000 police killings in a year, 5 cases a year are brought to trial, and, on average, one conviction. Those are the odds.


                  There is such a high hurdle of what the officer understood (or misunderstood) at the time of their action–negligence is a very hard thing to push in a split second reaction. That’s the elusive state of mind.

                  As for the inevitable settlement, let me refer you to a law firm that specializes in these cases:



                  The 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from $168.3 million in 2010, according to data gathered by The Wall Street Journal through public-records requests.

                  Those cities collectively paid out $1.02 billion over those five years in such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment. When claims related to car collisions, property damage and other police incidents are included, the total rose to more than $1.4 billion.

                  On Monday, New York City agreed to a $5.9 million settlement with the estate of Eric Garner, whose death after being put in a police chokehold last summer sparked widespread protests.


        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/10/2016 - 10:38 am.


          I think expecting perfect performance from every employee all the time may be a stretch.

          Especially when that employee works daily with many people, some of whom would like to kill them. Thankfully an error in my workplace usually only costs money. However I am not under threat of being shot everyday.

          • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/10/2016 - 01:02 pm.

            Population errors

            However, if you were an employer looking at the kinds of errors your entire population of employees were making, and you realized that there were certain categories of errors that were happening with a greater frequency, then you – as a responsible employer – should look a little deeper into why those particular errors were occurring and what measures you should put into place to try to keep those kinds of errors from continuing to happen into the future.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/10/2016 - 08:52 pm.

              Trade Offs

              If we are all agreed that “to err is human” and that errors are inevitable in a chaotic non-controlled job like policing, what type of error do you want?

              – On a rare occasion an innocent percent is shot.
              – On a rare occasion an officer is shot.
              – Bad guy escapes to harm more people.

              This unfortunately is a trade off exercise.

              The police can dial it back to ensure that NO innocent person is injured or killed, however that means that they will likely just ignore some questionable activities. I mean why take the risk if you could be fired or sent to jail for an unseen error.

              Or the police can hesitate more often, which will end with more of them injured or dying.

              • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/10/2016 - 09:51 pm.


                Situational training costs money. Money that decision-makers are loathe to spend.

                That’s all I’m going to say as I have already said this at least a couple of times and at least a couple of different ways (as have others in this thread, as well.)

                • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/11/2016 - 08:05 am.

                  The funds get spent.

                  Decision makers are’t loath to spend money, they just select other priorities. Government expenditure across all levels is around 40% of GDP and since the most basic function of government is constitute in the courts and law enforcement I would think other expenditures might be lower down the priority list.

                  How forcing all transportation to be self-funding and taking the money that now goes to it from the general fund to increase the quality of the justice system including policing? Any takers?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/11/2016 - 08:34 am.


                  I think the current model for most communities is that local government decides on the funding and training for local officers. How do you envision convincing the ~8,000 police departments in the USA and their affiliated cities to spend more on training when this type of error rate is so very low?

                  And are you willing to weaken the Public Employee Unions that will fight to keep questionable employees on the payroll?

                  • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/12/2016 - 06:59 pm.


                    Co’mon. Saying that trying to remove questionable police employees is going to cause the Public Employee Unions to fight to keep them could be seen as part of the problem. Except why would that be the cause of weakening most other Public Employee Unions? They seem to operate on different agenda’s and don’t support each other mostly anyway. Right now some off-duty police won’t be there when the Links play. Co’mon. Aren’t they being a little childish considering those t-shirts weren’t in any way condemning them. They appear to have their feelings hurt!

                    There is also a suggestion out there that we have far too many police forces who by and large operate independently and without sharing similar training and how to deal with the public. Combining them under fewer departments would alleviate overall costs and provide the same training, hopefully better, for fewer departments…same number of police. Unless they’d walk off in a huff.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/08/2016 - 09:43 pm.

        So pay them

        Requisite of the expectations. Then rigorously enforce those strictures. Of course that would cost money, so the “law and order” types will reflexively clutch their wallets and say, ” we can’t have that!”

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/10/2016 - 05:30 pm.

          And I ask you, 4 years into your career, did you ever make a mistake ?

          Did you ever mishear or misunderstand anything ?

          There is a terrible cost for this mistake, but I sincerely think that the cop did not walk up to the car thinking he was going to kill someone.

          It all comes down to what the cop understood at that moment in time.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/10/2016 - 10:52 pm.

            Excellent summary.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/11/2016 - 10:46 am.


            My mistakes don’t cost lives. Perfection MUST be the standard, that’s the reality. We expect it of medical personnel, why not law enforcement personnel? As I stated, if it takes more compensation to attract the people to make it work, so be it.

            • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/11/2016 - 11:41 am.

              Perfection simply doesn’t exist and isn’t expected, even in the medical field, so it can’t be the reality. ER personel have more acceptable rates of imperfection than do those in other areas because they don’t have the time to evaluate the situation before action needs to be taken. I agree that we can do a lot better and am fine making funding for police a much higher priority in order to make that happen. The truth is that there will still be trade offs involved in how we train the police and those trade offs need to be discussed. Simply demanding perfection is a way of avoiding reality.

              There is an interesting article in the New Tork Times that, to me anyway, is a good place to start the conversation. It starts to look at data around police bias in a way that might be able to help determine where there are problems and how they could be fixed. There are a lot of different police forces in the U.S. and we should use that fact to compare them as a way of gaining insight. Doing our best to use data taken from larger populations rather than our emotional responses to individual instances has at least some hope of producing improvement. Evidence based decision making is used in medicine because it has a foundation in science and the rational evaluation of information and the same techniques can be used for other complex systems. Something the emotionally driven world of politics has a hard time digesting. Emotion and fear wins elections and motivates crowds.


              • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/11/2016 - 02:20 pm.

                To clarify

                I’m not suggesting that perfection will happen, that would be foolish, but that it should be the target. Any deviations from that goal should be addressed accordingly. I don’t expect that ER doctors start the day thinking “I’m probably going to screw up and kill someone today” any more than most police officers do, but should that occur there must be consequences to prevent the next, doctor (or officer) from thinking they can let their focus slip, their attitude relax.

                • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/12/2016 - 07:52 am.


                  You continue to ask for perfection. Mistakes happen in all fields and they aren’t due to a relaxed attitude or slipping focus. The world is a complex place and even if all actors do exacts as they should things happen that are unintended. Add to that the imperfection inherent in all people and that no one can again perfect attitude or focus. This is what actually needs to beinderstood in order for improvements to be made. Assigning all bad consequences to a willful errors that can be fixed through better intent, focus or is likely to overlook the things which will make the greatest positive change. Also, if perfection is required by people, and there are no justifiable mistakes, those people will work to game the system as a way of surviving in it.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/11/2016 - 02:43 pm.

              If perfection is the standard, who are you going to find to do the job ? Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha are already spoken for.

              If perfection is the standard, what should be the penalty be for error ? Summary execution? Because all other penalties are already in the books, ranging from criminal prosecution and jail to civil lawsuit and monetary settlements.

              Jon Lord, above, talks about screening with the MMPI–I wonder how that screening system would work with police forces that must proclaim their perfection to in order to be the police.

  9. Submitted by Sandy Ellis on 07/11/2016 - 02:34 pm.

    We all have implicit bias

    There are a number of research studies indicating the effects of implicit bias on the part of police. Here’s just one. Note the last sentence of the abstract.

    Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C.M., & Wittenbrink, B. (2002). The police officer’s dilemma: Using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1314-1329.

    In this study, the researchers use a videogame to test the affect race has on shoot/don’t shoot decisions when there are African American and White targets holding guns or holding various non-threatening objects. Participants were told to “shoot” the armed targets and “not shoot” unarmed targets.
    In terms of response time, participants were quicker to shoot the armed African American than the armed White. Conversely the participants were quicker to “not shoot” the unarmed White. The most common errors were shooting the unarmed African American and not-shooting the armed White.

    All of these results are consistent with a Black-crime implicit bias and this bias was found in both African American and White participants.

    If you’re truly interested in implicit bias take a look at the ongoing research project into implicit attitudes here:

    Instead of logging in, choose Take a Test. You can choose from 14 different tests to learn more about your unconscious attitudes and automatic preferences.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/12/2016 - 02:22 pm.


      I tried the skin color one and found no inherent bias one way or the other. However, actually taking the test seemed more of a test of hand/eye/brain coordination.

  10. Submitted by richard owens on 07/12/2016 - 08:59 am.

    The firearms industry benefits from the crisis.

    Who wants to live in a world where every traffic stop is a potential gun fight? No cops I know. Cops would have it easier with fewer armed constituents. Citizens would suffer fewer shootings with fewer citizens carrying guns.

    Who wants to live in a world where a military style weapon can be wielded by darn near anybody anywhere? Only the gun lobby and their businesses.

    The Constitution has many ambiguities, interpretations and contradictions- but nowhere does the Constitution advocate for harm to the citizenry as is now epidemic. The 2nd amendment is functionally OBSOLETE and dangerous in this modern age. Intentionally or not, it enables wanton killing in exchange for the fetishes of a few.

    It is no secret that fear sells firearms- and the more fear the more firearms the more violence.

    Is it a secret that the NRA is a WHITE organization? Armed Black men are not who the NRA is working for. They actually profit from the FEAR of Black men. CCW didn’t help Phil. It might have killed him.

    There is a public enemy in this awful sick game- it is the unaccountable, legally protected industry that profits from our misery.

    I’ll blame the NRA and its raison d’être until they step up and provide a sane way to lead the country on the topic of the human cost of their policies of bearing arms. These costs THEIRS to bear.

  11. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/14/2016 - 11:53 am.

    Interesting to note

    All the earliest comments include facts that have since been proven incorrect or at least called into question. It seems to seriously contradict the main point of this piece. I guess there is something to the notion that maybe it IS better to wait until after the investigation. Something the author and the Governor still haven’t seemed to learn.

  12. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/14/2016 - 03:31 pm.

    And how many people have heard this:

    ……Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was a passenger in the car along with her 4-year-old daughter, stressed in her video that Castile complied with Yanez’s requests before the encounter turned fatal. But when talking to reporters the day after his death, she shed light on possible confusion stemming from Castile’s final words to the officer.

    “As he’s reaching for his back pocket wallet, he lets the officer know: ‘Officer, I have a firearm on me,” she said. “I begin to yell, ‘But he’s licensed to carry.’ After that, (the officer) began to take off shots.”……



    A possible felony stop, a request for DL, a cryptic statement from the driver about having a gun while reaching for the DL while allowing the cop to glimpse the gun, and then the passenger starts yelling something…


    When I was a new recruit, I vividly remember my training officer telling us ‘don’t get tunnel vision.’ He said it with such conviction that I knew it was important. So I wrote it down. But he never really told us what it was, how we get it and most importantly, how to avoid it. Let’s explore the concept of tunnel vision…..

    …the term tunnel vision does not accurately reflect what happens under stress. It’s a little more complex than I had realized.

    ….Tunneled senses more accurately depicts the results of stress. All your senses can become tunneled when you are stressed. For vision, it means your visual attention can be focused on one small geographic area of an emergency scene or one task being performed at a scene and you miss seeing things in your periphery. For hearing, it means your audible attention can be focused on one source of sound, like a person talking to you face-to-face or traffic on your radio, or a siren of an approaching engine.

    When you are suffering from tunneled senses your situational awareness is vulnerable because you are likely to miss important clues and cues. Many things happen in the peripheral vision that will be lost when vision is tunneled. When hearing is tunneled, you can miss hearing other things happening around you. The fixation on a single conversation or a single sound prevents you from hearing other things.

    It gets worse.

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins University ran a series of audible and visual tests on human subjects, measuring the loss of acuity while engaging them in activities designed to narrow attention. The results were a shocker.

    The experiment was designed to tunnel vision – and it did. But a completely unexpected event occurred. While the vision was being tunneled, the performance of the audible control center decreased. That was not a typo. Tunneled vision led to diminished hearing. Turns out, focusing on something intently led the audio cortex to turn down the volume…..

    (end quote)

    This is the exact stress-laden scenario that the investigators and potential prosecutors will have weigh in the process of deciding whether to charge or not. And it will probably b the exact reason why they will not charge.

    Human brain and stress.

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