Curbing Excessive Force: A Primer on Barriers to Police Accountability

Kami N. Chavis & Conor Degnan
Because Philando Castile’s girlfriend live streamed his last moments on Facebook, many are familiar with how he died at the hands of a police officer. On July 6, 2016, Officer Jeronimo Yanez saw Mr. Castile driving near the state fairgrounds with his girlfriend and her daughter. According to Officer Yanez, he believed that Mr. Castile’s “wide-set nose” appeared to match surveillance video of a suspect involved in an armed robbery that occurred days earlier.1 Because police officers had pulled over Mr. Castile multiple times in the past, he knew to have his seatbelt fastened, and gave the officer his insurance card.2 Mr. Castile also informed Officer Yanez that he was carrying a firearm.3 Before he could assure Officer Yanez that he was not going for his gun, Officer Yanez fired seven shots, killing him. In his last breath Mr. Castile exclaimed, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
Mr. Castile is just one of several unarmed African-American men who have died at the hands of the police over the last several years. Although tensions between police and communities of color have long been an issue, a succession of recent allegations of excessive force by police officers has garnered widespread public attention and admonition. The names of Michael Brown in Ferguson,4 Eric Garner in Staten Island, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Walter Scott in North Charleston5 are etched in the public consciousness as rally points for those who call for increased police accountability.

Curbing_Excessive_Force 2017

Curbing Excessive Force:
A Primer on Barriers to Police Accountability

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