Remember Your Training

I’m trying to process the verdict in the case of Philando Castile’s death. With the dashcam video now publicly released, I can only shake my head and wonder how anyone can justify or explain away his shooting.

I’m not a trained officer. I’m totally an armchair quarterback. I’m not privy to all the details revealed in court. It’s easy to second-guess and hindsight is 20-20 and all that

I know every situation is different and no two officers might respond the same to a given encounter. I understand that an officer is at risk and is naturally going to be thinking about how to protect themselves. I am deeply grateful for those who are willing to wear a badge and place themselves in harm’s way to maintain law and order in our society. I want police officers going home to their families at the end of their shifts…

…But I want civilians going home to their loved ones too.

Every situation is different and yet there are videos of white dudes walking around waving guns at police officers, and they don’t end up shot… videos of white guys wrestling cops and reaching for their guns, but they don’t end up choked to death or gunned down at close range… instances of white guys shooting up churches or movie theaters and ending up in cuffs to face trial when other people are sitting in their cars complying with an officer’s instructions and that’s a life-threatening situation.

Again, every situation is different, and I’m not privy to all the details. But I would have to be intentionally blind or ignorant to pretend there’s not an obvious trend toward increased use of force against minorities. Studies show higher use of non-lethal force against minorities is a fact. Incidents of lethal force by the statistics may not be higher but the perception certainly exists and it’s causing distrust between police and the communities they serve.

I saw a video marketing a cheap sleeve that holds all one’s identification and vehicle paperwork. Before an officer approaches the car, you can place that over the door so that everything is readily available, and no reaching for anything is necessary, thus preventing any fear or misunderstanding when you comply with the direction to produce paperwork or identification.

It sounds like an unfortunate necessity after what was done to Castile, who seemingly tried to do everything right.

At some point I feel like we need to ask, how much fear is enough when dealing with a police officer? How compliant must one be? How deferential, how cautious, how meticulous in every response, every motion, every action?

Do civilians – particularly civilians of color – have to behave as if professionally trained for encounters with police? It sure seems that way… and it makes me wonder why it’s not the other way around.


“Remember your training and come back safe

to the land of the free and the home of the brave”

It’s a speech that we save for those fully grown

For soldiers deploying into a war zone

For young men and women just over eighteen

Who experience challenges we’ve never seen

But for far too many, that’s not the first time they’ve heard

Someone giving them warning with similar words

We say all lives matter but it’s clear that they don’t

And we say it gets better but it looks like it won’t

And we hush down the voices loud and outspoken

And we tell them relax, let’s not fix what’s not broken

And we say each encounter has some subtle difference

And we remind the protesters to presume others’ innocence

But the man in the car who did all that was asked of him

Got shot with his daughter in the back seat to witness it

Seems to me there’s a pattern anyone can make out

Clear enough to see beyond all reasonable doubt:

Out playing? Get shot.

Obeying? Get shot.

Run away? Get shot.

Wedding day? Get shot.

Ask why? Get shot.

Comply? Get shot.

Justified? It’s not!

It’s a speech that some give to their kids ‘cause they have to

If you want to live through this, better know what to do

Hands in sight, Sir or Ma’am, be polite, watch your tone

And if you can help it don’t get stopped alone

But maybe live-stream everything from your phone

Otherwise your side might never be known

If it’s your word or theirs, you’re going to to lose

But remember, take care with the actions you choose

‘Cause all they need to say is they feared for their life

And then anything that they do’s justified

So remember your training and come back safe

In this land of the “free” and this home of the “brave”

4 thoughts on “Remember Your Training”

  1. You said, “Incidents of lethal force by the statistics may not be higher but the perception certainly exists and it’s causing distrust between police and the communities they serve.” That’s it in a nutshell – perception. But the question that should be asked is, “Who is creating the perception?” Believe me, there are those who are profiting from the perception business.

    But let me tell you something else. I work with cops as a Sheriff’s Department Chaplain. I visit them in the jail (ours is six-floors of hell). I would say that the majority of prisoner held there are minority, yet is it because of racism? No, it’s because when a cop is called out to a crime scene or to arrest someone, guess who’s usually the one committing the crime? If a policeman is constantly having to deal with gang violence, break-ins, drug dealing, drive-by’s, car thefts, and such, will he get calls to go where the intact families live? Sometimes, but not normally. Why is that? It’s because there are underlying issues that go beyond race and profiling. The perception is that our guys are only after the minorities, but that’s because that’s all that gets reported; the underlying causes are too politically-incorrect to discuss.

    1. Right before that, however, I pointed out that there is a proven increase in use of non-lethal force against minorities. That’s not perception, that’s fact.
      Couple that with the high profile cases of dangerous serial killers who get captured and cuffed alive, and people who freely wave guns around the police but survive the encounter… then compare with the number of “I feared for my life so I had to put several rounds into the unarmed man I had under control” stories and the instances of police violence that would go completely unreported were it not for the citizens recording the police.
      Philando Castile would quite likely be a non-story, a page 10 article in a local paper, had his girlfriend not posted the live stream of the incident.
      Yes, this is part of a complex network of issues and concerns, and there are people I believe take advantage of the tensions.
      But there are specifics worth addressing and questions worth asking here, and I don’t feel we can hand wave it all away with “well, that’s where all the crime is so… stuff happens.”

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