Part of the reality in keeping the freedom and liberty we enjoy in America is that these freedoms and liberties are continuously protected. We protect them through the practice of self-expression. We also protect these in being stewards to the local, national and global community. People who are soldiers, nurses, medics, men and women police officers, firefighters, teachers and even librarians represent a special front line in the protection of these freedoms… inalienable, God-given rights.
I will devote a series of essays, called ‘The Freedom Essays,’ bringing forward the importance of how caring for ourself and others places us on the course of protecting the foundations of these very freedoms and liberties. This practice of sustained, goal-directed thinking is then, a mind exercise training that strengthens the ability to be a formidable defender of these liberties through being an educated, objective voice that advocates both for self and others.
An excellent example of one of these stewards is a police officer. In the United States, it is possible to have an African-Jamaican female police officer working as a safety crossing guard on the road as children arrive at a nearby school in Harlem. A nurse who works in a hospital helping deliver babies is a wonderful example of a servant to the community and a practicer caring for others. In being cared for, in being raised with these care and protections we are freer to pursue formulating the social changes necessary to be brought in which serve as this front line of defense in America helping to form a safety net where we exercise the powers of freedom. In a foundational way, it is because of these community helpers like the firefighters, the soldiers, the librarians, the teachers, nurses and medics, city workers in office or those just picking up the trash that our society functions and empowering us (each other) to enjoy a quality of life that we would not otherwise enjoy.
Through it all, it is important to realize that in caring for those who care about us we acknowledge the chain of connection that creates and sustains our communities. In light of the recent and horrific death of Philando Castile, the importance of addressing the realities some of these helpers to the community face in service. Moms and Dad’s, aunts, brothers and sisters who serve as police officers sometimes get killed in the line of duty. It happens enough times across the nation… police officers getting shot or attacked…that it brings a new level of required mental toughness, of mind-strength expenditure over a prolonged period of time, like years and decades. This creates a recipe for deep, prolonged stress.
A few days ago, Officer Geronimo Yanez unloaded his firearm on Mr. Castile, releasing seven bullets all over the upper body, as a child sat in the back seat and a woman in the passenger seat. It was a traffic stop. Transcripts of the officer’s testimony and video camera footage point to the officer saying he smelled Marijuana in the car. In close reading, it can be noted that the officer expressed anger that there was smoking in the car while a young child was sitting in the back seat. It should also be noted that the officer appears to be a Central American, U.S. citizen. Philando Castile was African American. In the traffic stop, Mr. Castile calmly informed the police officer that he had a weapon. From reading the transcripts, it does not appear that Mr. Castile was intent on killing the police officer over a traffic stop as a child and woman sat in the car with him. It did sound like Mr. Castile was giving the police officer information that there was a weapon and therein attempting to alert not to be surprised. This is key. Castile was alerting the officer that there was a weapon, therein attempting to give the officer initial information which the officer would most definitely like to know.
Over the critical reading of the transcript, it is listed that Officer Geronimo Yanez unloaded the seven bullets on Castile’s body almost immediately after being told there was a weapon in the car, which had the smell of weed-smoking in it as the young child and woman sat in it also. Officer Yanez said that Mr. Castile tried to take out a large dark object from his waist and the officer said he thought it was the gun that Castile had told him about. Officer Yanez puts forward that he was afraid for his own safety at that moment and he proceeded to kill Mr. Castile in front of the young child and women. Besides, there was pot-smoking in the car.
Somehow, it is also noted that Officer Geronimo appeared to have the blood stained driver identification document of Mr. Castile. This begs a question… Did the officer grab the identification document of Mr. Castile before or after he gunned him down? Were there events that happened and were not recorded properly in the initial statement transcripts of the officer? If the document was given before the death of Mr. Castile, this supports that Castile not only told the officer he had a weapon, but was giving him identification documents. Better said, Castile was cooperating with the police officer and not showing that he was about to think it okay to kill the police officer with his weapon as a child and woman sat in the car.
This is important. There are pictures of the officer having the blood stained document of Castile. All this points to supporting the history that Castile was not threatening or about threaten or enact murder on the officer. It does appear that the officer was rash and premature to fire seven bullets into Castile and that the state of mind of the officer was not at all calm, cool and collected.
In this essay, it is my desire to point out that the actions of one police officer should not and cannot erase social good that community servants like female and male police officers do for us. This case does highlight however, the need to support police officer stress-care, just like we are beginning to do better for soldier veterans. The death of Philando Castile should not have happened, and it seems that the police officer did not give accurate representation of what actually occurred and when. Though smoking Marijuana while driving a car can place the drivers in cars around one at risk and smoking with a minor in the back seat is reprehensible, it should not be part of a half-justification testimony by the officer as to why he unloaded seven bullets on Castile and could it be possible that he overreacted?