Philando Castille, Driving Records and The Treadmill to Nowhere

Philando Castille was killed in a traffic stop.  He was stopped many times in his life for tickets.  NPR has more on his driving records.

“An NPR analysis of those records shows that the 32-year-old cafeteria worker who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb, was stopped by police 46 times and racked up more than $6,000 in fines. Another curious statistic: Of all of the stops, only six of them were things a police officer would notice from outside a car — things like speeding or having a broken muffler.


The records show that Castile spent most of his driving life fighting tickets. Three months after that first stop, for example, his license was suspended and he went into his first spiral: Police stopped him on Jan. 8, 2003. They stopped him on Feb. 3 and on Feb. 12 and Feb. 26 and on March 4.


‘What Mr. Castile symbolizes for a lot of us working in public defense is that driving offenses are typically just crimes of poverty,’ says Erik Sandvick, a public defender in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul and its suburbs.


When he heard about Castile in the news, his name sounded so familiar that Sandvick looked up the records and saw his own name listed as Castile’s public defender in a 2006 case. He vaguely remembers Castile, but his story is like that of many other clients he’s had. They get tickets they can’t pay, and then they are ticketed over and over for driving with a suspended license or not having insurance.


The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.


Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University and the author of Crook County, which documents the problems in the criminal justice system of Chicago, said Castile was the “classic case” of what criminologists have called “net widening,” or the move by local authorities to criminalize more and more aspects of regular life.


‘It is in particular a way that people of color and the poor are victimized on a daily basis,’ Gonzalez Van Cleve said.


Many times, both Gonzalez Van Cleve and Sandvick agree, the system leaves citizens with no good choices — having to pick, for instance, whether to pay a fine or pay for car insurance.


In some ways, Schnell added, this is a cycle for everyone involved: Unable to dig themselves out, drivers may lose their licenses and police may run their plates.


‘The registered owner pops up as driving after suspension or revocation, and that can often trigger the stop,’ Schnell said.


Castile’s driving problems often appeared to be triggered by something small — a problem with his license plate or blocking an intersection. When he couldn’t keep up with the fines, his license would get suspended, and he’d keep driving.


One six-year period in particular — from 2006 to 2012 — stands out. Castile was stopped 29 times during that period. Sometimes he was fined $270, sometimes $150, but it kept adding up. He soon amassed more than $5,000 in fines.”

NPR, The Driving Life and Death of Philando Castille

for more, see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Municipal Violations,

See also The Marshall Project, Mother Jones

I’ve been calling this the “Driving While License Suspended Treadmill to Nowhere” for years. I was the conveyor belt on that treadmill for a long time. It’s real.

This is not serving our communities. It’s only lining the pockets of the government. It’s broken. You have to be willing to acknowledge that something is broken in order to start to fix it.

About This Guy

This popped up on my facebook a few months ago.  I was supposed to wrote something about it but I didn’t then.  I have a second today.

On the one hand, this is how I deal with the police.  I get pulled over often.  I’ve never been shot before.   I am polite, respectful and I know how to talk to people.  I’ve even written about it.  Kind of like this person.

But you don’t see me getting online and acting a damn fool about it.  You don’t see me getting online and disparaging a whole movement that has pulled together to make actual social change just because I made it through one traffic stop. You don’t see me forgetting Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and the many others who have been killed while doing nothing wrong.

When you point one finger over the internet, three point back at you.  I took a look at his profile and I found the following picture.

I don’t have cable but I know that typeface when I see it. It sure isn’t MSNBC.  You’re a plant.  You get a platform to say things like “Racism is Dead, just look at me, I’m on Fox News” and you milk it.  You look over at them and you smile and they smile back at you.  But there’s a lesson you haven’t learned yet.  It’s a lesson that I had to learn a long time ago; a lesson that Ben Carson is learning now.  Maybe Stacey Dash will learn the lesson at the same time as you.  Maybe when you and her are sitting at the same cafeteria table in the back near the bathroom at the Fox News Building then you’ll figure it out.  Let us know when you do, we’ll be playing dominoes over here at this other table.  But we’re not dealing you in until next game.


This is a Post About Police Officers in Schools

When I was 13 these bullies in my middle school threw a basketball at my head. I turned around at the wrong time and it hit me in the face. I had stitches in my lip and lost my chair in band. My lips were bigger than they already were.

2 days later i was walking the track with my friends during PE and the bullies were back. They pushed me around. I took one of them that pushed me and I fought him. I didn’t beat him up because I sucked at fighting. We “fought” to a draw and then I got taken to the school office.  When I got there I got suspended for three days. I stayed home and watched the OJ hearings.  I couldn’t be in the national junior honors society (which was traumatic at the time). During that year “zero tolerance” was in effect. The school didn’t send the duncanville police to arrest me though; because I had never really gotten in a lot of trouble before. I was a “good kid.”

So when I think about this police officer “going to eleven” on this girl, I wonder if “zero tolerance” is the problem. The idea that some schools have that “we can’t risk a lawsuit by doing something wrong so we will let the police handle it.” I know that we can’t go back, especially in this litigious society, but is this really the answer? Even if you take this specific officer out of the equation, the fact that we have armed people who are trained in use of force to patrol over people whose minds haven’t completely developed yet just doesn’t seem like the right answer. I wonder what would have happened in my life if I had’ve gotten arrested and taken to juvie that day. How would my life be different now?

I know that people are going to get on here and have a field day and post links to their respective websites that prove their point exactly, but isn’t there a better way?

Obvious counterpoint:

and obviously I know that there are a ton of these sort of things on the interwebs.  and they are horrible.  And yes there are situations out there that warrant officers.  I get it.  But is this always the answer?


**i got a private message saying basically: propose a solution. I don’t know what the answer is.**

I Got Pulled Over by the Police Again and Im Blogging About It

I get pulled over by the police often.  This is the most recent time that happened.  I originally told this story on FB.

[scene: sunday night I got pulled over for running a red light in lewisville at 35 and SH 121. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in 2 weeks and don’t do drugs].

[after the license, insurance and other pleasantries].

officer: have you been drinking?
jg: no sir, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol all day.
officer: do you know where you are/what time it is/where you are coming from/where you are going?
jg: [answers correctly and politely]
officer: i think you’ve been drinking. and your speech sounds slurred. what would you say if i said i smelled alcohol on you?
jg: i’d say that surprises me because I haven’t had any alcohol today.
officer: step out of the car please.
jg: [kevin hart face (see below), but steps out of the car].

officer: do you know if you have resting nystagmus?

jg: I don’t know, but I haven’t seen an optometrist for it [I meant for that to be a hint].

[the officer had me step out of the car and performed HGN on me (see below)]

Dec. 21, 2011 Atlanta - Georgia State Patrol trooper Gregory Spruiell performs a field sobriety test on a driver after he failed to stop at a stop sign and admitted to having had one beer in Atlanta on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2011. The driver passed the test and received a verbal warning. Curtis Compton

The officer also did VGN on me as well, even though that can’t be used in court as evidence of intoxication (I’m looking for a cite on this).  But I was trying to be good and not say anything about it.


[after HGN]:

Officer: well, I think that you’ve had something to drink, but I only got two clues. do you know what that means?
jg: [thinking “we are soooooooo done, see picture below”] yes, but you need 4 clues, officer.

you dun


Officer: what’d you say?

jg: you need 4 clues under NHTSA*
Officer: How do you know that?
jg: I was a prosecutor for 5 years.
Officer: yes, but i still have information about your current intox. I think you’d blow less than a .08, but you need to be more careful. have a good night sir.

*NOTE: I am aware that there are some people who would have less than 4 clues that still might be intoxicated, so you don’t have to post that as a comment. just note that the same leeway that a prosecutor says an officer should get about the SFST’s when they pull out the inside cover of the NHTSA manual should be applied to someone who is explaining how many clues are necessary for evidence of intoxication to an officer on the side of the road.

**I like police officers and I know they have a very hard and dangerous job. i want all the police officers to go home or wherever they want to go at the end of their shift. Police officers should be able to do their job safely and without risk of injury or death.

When I told this story on FB I got comments:

Most people asked me why I ran the red light.  And I own that.  Especially after I got pulled over last week for running a light on a bicycle.  I got pulled over for it.  Yes, you read that right.

Others were surprised that I wasn’t more upset.  Many were surprised that I kept my composure.  It took a lot for me to say something.  Usually when I get stopped by the police (which is pretty often) I just am thinking “say yes sir, no sir, don’t move your hands too fast and this should all be over soon.” But when he said 2 clues, I was all like:


This video also expresses my thoughts at the same time:


Others send other pictures to help express my emotions at the time of the incident.  They are accurate.


10268605_10154194439741562_1880894175852955316_n 11752438_10154194437666562_5256218517268335736_n


So anyway, that’s my story.  Hope you liked it.  If not, come back next week when I get pulled over again, probably.

Even Judge Mathis Gets It. Your Argument has no Merit.

So Judge Mathis had some knucklehead in his court who had a history of being a knucklehead.  Let’s go to the tape.

You can’t argue with him, HE’S JUDGE MATHIS.  Your argument has no merit.  Your aunt watches his show ALL THE TIME.

mic drop

How long has that show been on, anyway?

EDIT TO ADD:  Judge Mathis said something really important and poignant in 2014 about this.  So watch it.

Point/Counterpoint: Sharing Videos on Social Media of Inappropriate Police Contact

Footage. Video. Tapes. They exist in droves now. But what is the purpose? What good have they done? In the case of Eric Garner’s death, it did nothing to bring justice. His killer walked free. In the case of Walter Scott, his killer got charged with murder and we celebrated because our standards are now so low that a CHARGE feels like justice. We shall await the trial where a jury of people who probably don’t look like Walter will be left to decide.

But these videos of Black men being killed, unarmed and vulnerable are all over the web and I can’t watch them. For me, it goes beyond trying to show people what is happening. It goes past that because we’ve seen in the past that even with video, we still might not get justice. These videos are desensitizing us to violence being perpetuated against Black people. They are desensitizing us to Black death, because the more we see it, the less we’re jarred. Even in our acute feelings of rage, constantly being exposed to certain imagery will make it more digestible the next time it is seen. It’s called Exposure Therapy.

It is absolutely working because Black death is treated too frivolously. People are so casual about seeing us lifeless that we don’t even get trigger warnings. We get autoplay videos at the top of articles on websites. AUTOPLAY! Walter Scott’s execution video and pictures were omnipresent this past week, shown on television and placed all in social media feeds.

We treat Black bodies too callously. I saw pics of bodies of those killed in Nigeria during one of the Boko Haram attacks. I saw more than enough pictures of the bodies of those students who were killed in Garissa, Kenya. People kept uploading those pictures all under the guise of getting our attention and making us care.

Why do we feel the need to show the lifeless bodies of Black people before we can come up with empathy? If we need to see blood run from people’s skulls to be affected by their deaths, then we are monsters. Even in our outrage, it is a spectacle. It’s almost like we have to prove that the same blood we have is the same everyone else has. SEE???? RED. JUST LIKE YOURS. As it runs out their pumping heart. As it stains the sidewalk. As it dries in the streets for 6 hours.

People are fiercely protective of white death. But Black people? SURE HERE’S A PICTURE OF HIS HEAD BLOWN OFF. NOW YOU CAN FEEL BAD. Did we need to see the bodies of the frenchmen killed to say “Je suis Charlie?” Did we need to see the bodies of the little kids in Newtown to cry for their parents? Did we need to see the heads of the men beheaded by ISIS to decry terrorism? No, we did not.

That also brings me to the glaring fact that all over the world, Black lives are continuously de-valued and treated like less than. I woke up this morning, thinking of Kenya, and how 147 people died in Garissa but the world isn’t standing with them. The media isn’t covering it relentlessly. People have almost forgot. 12 people died in France and we stood and chanted “Je Suis Charlie” as they were martyred for dying for freedom of speech. World leaders went to Paris to March. For 12 people.

Let’s quantify this for a hot second and put THE MATHS into it. Ok, 147 divided by 12 is approximately 12. Ok so 1 white life gone is still more valuable than 12 Black ones. Or am I getting too specific? Is it apples and oranges? Stop me if it is. This message is constant. It is undeniable. It is perpetual. It is EXHAUSTING and it is traumatizing.

This is also why I am not France. You don’t need me to be France because they are handled. I AM Kenya. They look like me. I am them. I am Nigeria, the country I was born. I am not France.

Again, we didn’t see one video or picture of the scene at the Charlie Hebdo offices. Those images didn’t magically replicate and make it all over the web. Why? Because white death is treated sacredly. Black people. Even in DEATH, we still don’t get humanity, and this breaks my heart.

I say this, and people will counter-point and say that we NEED to see the videos of our men and women and girls and boys being killed so we can know the truth and see some change. The existence of video is good because we finally have evidence of the systemic murder of Black people. However, my larger point is that the way people are being so cavalier about how this imagery is being handled is what is not ok. This is psychological warfare, and we are being used as tragedy porn.

If the point of all this video is to bring some change, then change should have come a while ago. In the last 6 months, we’ve seen videos of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and now Eric Harris. Ok then. Now what? How many executions of white people have we seen videos of, though? Even then, they protect those and those pics don’t magically replicate.

Awesomely Luvvie, About Images of Black Death and the Groundhog Day of Police Brutality

Share the video. Please. I fear the cop who would end up killing me won’t face prosecution without it. But I know my view isn’t shared by everyone.

After the release of video last week showing Walter Scott, and even more recently, Eric Harris, being killed by police, many have taken to social media to express how such videos do nothing more than demean the lives of those who were brutally killed. Critics also argue that neither the victims nor their families are given the opportunity to consent to the videos’ release. Some even suggest that we should stop sharing such videos all together.

I understand the mental health issue these videos can cause—they are traumatizing—but I think such commentary focuses too much over “share versus don’t share” and less on how we should more carefully handle such violent and triggering footage. These videos are essential for lawyers to use as evidence in court and to counter the narrative of cops supposedly “fearing for their lives.”

A recent Washington Post article reveals that one of the main reasons some 54 officers were charged in the death of a civilian over the last ten years was because there was video of the incident. It makes sense. Hundreds of black people are killed by cops each year and most of them never make national news. And, if we really want to be honest, the only reason most people are taking about Eric Harris’ death today is because video of his shooting was released. The man was killed last week. If we didn’t see that vide, would we be discussing his death? Maybe. Maybe not. If a cop kills me, I have little faith the American legal system would prosecute him or her without video evidence.

Terrell Jermaine Starr, If a Cop Is Recorded Killing Me, You Have My Permission to Share the Video

This is tough, but I think that these things should be recorded and shown.  The public should see what is going on and in many cases has a right to know.

That said, I am tired of seeing all of these videos. These videos, in my opinion, dehumanize and devalue black life.  I don’t like that.  The benefits outweigh the harms though.

Featured Image via Screenshot

Police Officer Response

I had a job once where I worked for an elected official.  It was what I wanted for my life and I was proud to work there.  The elected official that I worked for got in some pretty big trouble over some emails.  It was pretty bad.  My job at the time included talking to defense attorneys.  Many of them had things to say about my office and the head elected official.  There really wasn’t a lot that you could say or do when that happened; you more or less had to try to let them get their shots in, say “alright, alright” and change the subject.  You could say something like “are you here [representing an alleged law violator] on a case?” real testy and snappy, but that was about it.  If a potential juror asked you about it during jury selection you had to say something along the lines of “I’m here to try this case involving that person” and point to the accused person or something like that.

Over the past few weeks several notable people have made public comments about police and their interactions with civilians.  Players from the St. Louis Rams made a statement when they entered the field with their hands up.  Several Basketball Players have worn “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in their pre-game warm ups.  And Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt asking for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.

Cleveland police union chief Jeffrey Follmer responded (credit: msnbc/Salon):

How ‘bout this? Listen to police officers’ commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop. That eliminates a lot of problems…The nation needs to realize, when we tell you to do something, do it, and if you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and if you’re right, the courts will figure it out.

When the St. Louis Rams came out of the Tunnel with their hands up the St. Louis Police union demanded an apology as well.

And then there’s this:

And even more recently:

Even if “when we use the slogan “Breathe Easy” we are referring to knowing the police are there for you,” it was poorly timed.  There was a better way to say what they were trying to say.

It’s worth noting that these statements are being made by Unions and other associated entities probably on their own time.  These statements are not being made by the police departments themselves but even with that there are exceptions.

It is interesting to see these police officers make such bold statements.  A cursory review of some online stories indicates that other NYC Mayors have had to tangle with the Police Unions as well.  I wonder what would have happened if I had’ve said something similar back when I was working for the government.  I wonder if I’ll get told that I need to apologize later as well.

(featured image from Death and Taxes)

“The Other America”

Many Americans find themselves at a loss to understand the depth of the anger and frustration of the protestors. It might be worthwhile for them to read aspeech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on April 14, 1967, at Stanford University. A colleague of mine in Congress reminded me of his words, and I find they ring as true today as they did almost 50 years ago.

In the speech, King describes what he calls the “other America,” one of two starkly different American experiences that exist side-by-side. One people “experience the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions,” and the other a “daily ugliness” that spoils the purest hopes of the young and old, leaving only “the fatigue of despair.” The Brown and Garner cases themselves are not the only focus of the protestors’ grievances, but they represent a glimpse of a different America most Americans have found it inconvenient to confront.

One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor, no matter that they are supposedly regulated by impartial law. In the other, children, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers, whole families, and many generations are swept up like rubbish by the hard, unforgiving hand of the law.

They are offered no lenience, even for petty offenses, in a system that seems hell-bent on warehousing them by the millions of people, while others escape the consequences of pervasive malfeasance scot-free. Some people rationalize that it was unfortunate, but not altogether disturbing, that Michael Brown was put to death without due process because, after all, he allegedly took some cigarillos from a corner store. But who went to jail for the mortgage fraud that robbed his community and other black communities around the country of 50 percent of their wealth?

Should people accused of stealing be held accountable? Definitely. But the justice system entangles the most vulnerable so effectively that even the innocent often find it easier to just plead guilty. Meanwhile the capable, and sometimes the stealthiest and most damaging, are slapped on the wrist and given a pass.

John Lewis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the ‘Other America’

Cover Photo Courtesy of The New Yorker

Having listened to this whole speech I remember hearing many of the themes and ideas as I was growing up but not knowing much about them.  I will endeavor to listen to more of his speeches!

Well, This is Horrible

Witnesses say a cruiser that attempted to pull over Blouin, going the wrong way down a one-way street just after 1 p.m., instead ran him over.

“He went under the wheels,” said Bibi, who would only give her first name. She said the cruiser then shifted into drive and ran Blouin over a second time.

Witness Sylvie Dion described a “rough arrest” in which officers pinned Blouin to the ground by both of his arms.

Bibi added: “I saw the blood coming out of his mouth, he shouted ‘I’m hurt.'”

The witnesses also said officers walked the man to an ambulance as he was doubled over in pain.

Blouin died a few hours later.

Toronto Sun, Quebec City cops pinned dying cyclist to ground, witnesses say

This is an absolute horrible story.  But possibly not as bad as the related stories on the left of the main article:

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