Not Guilty Verdict in the Shooting Death of Philando Castile
First, I offer condolences to the Castile family. Although I have never personally experienced a loss such as theirs, I imagine a trial and the subsequent not guilty verdict is, in some respects, just as painful as the shooting itself. In regards to police shootings, what can I say that hasn't already been said before? So many times. Too many. This verdict like all the others is disheartening and leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. But on some level, at least for me, the outcome of (almost) every criminal proceeding like this one is expected. The results usually fall into 1 of 2 categories, cases that do not meet the threshold for prosecution (bill ignoramus) or a not guilty verdict.
For me, it all began with the Rodney King incident. It was the first time I can recall seeing video of a police arrest. The story ran on a loop and with every airing came the images of King beaten to within an inch of his life. It was brutal. In 1992, if you were to ask anyone I knew if they thought anything other than a guilty verdict would be rendered, the answer would have been no. I'm certain of it. The evidence was there, captured on camera. Yet the jurors who heard nearly three months of testimony in the Rodney King case say the infamous videotape provided only a partial picture of what happened on March 3, 1991. And that comment, only a partial picture of what happened, has been repeated in nearly every police-involved shooting since. I've come to expect it, when high-ranking officials hold press conferences, often alongside community leaders calling for calm in the midst of another tragedy. Followed close behind is the character assassination of the victim and the testimony of officers that were in fear for their lives. The combination usually adds up to reasonable doubt.
25 Years Later
I can close my eyes and see the King beating. Images like that stay with you as do the messages about black Americans. It is part of the reason I don't watch much television and rarely look at newscasts. I prefer to read the news, to think critically about what is being presented and research topics for myself. Besides, today's images are far worse. Videophones capture every deadly encounter with amazing clarity as do body cameras/audio and dashcams; although body and dash cams can be (and have been) turned off or obstructed on some occasions - another issue that needs to be addressed. It's clear that the answer does not reside in the advanced capabilities of audio/visual equipment. It doesn't guarantee accountability or appropriate conduct. So where do we go from here? Some say segregation, others call for the investment of human capital within our communities and externally in police departments and the criminal justice system. Still, others call for more drastic measures to change the narrative.
I've shared with family and friends my belief that the violence against people of color is apart of the fabric of this country and that these heinous acts will continue. They've never stopped. The difference is now we have the video. No justice, but we definitely have the video.
Rest in peace, Philando Castile.
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