A new initiative launched by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to ‘reduce deadly force encounters’ between police and black drivers has divided the city.
The ‘Not Reaching’ pouches feature a clear plastic bag, which hold a driver’s license, insurance card and registration, and is attached to the dashboard by magnets so the motorist does not have to reach inside their glove box or bag.
They were created for the police by Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile who was shot dead by cops who mistook him reaching for his license for reaching for a gun.
She is hopeful the pouches can prevent more innocent black men from being killed by police, just like her son.
But many were furious with Minnesota Police for handing out the pouches, which they believe shift the blame of the cop-killings from the officer to the victim.
Twitter was quick to pounce on the ‘tone deaf’ bags which some branded ‘don’t-murder-me pouches’ or ‘please-don’t-execute-me pouches.’
One user replied bluntly: ‘Have you tried simply not shooting people instead?’
But others support the pouches as a temporary solution to avoid further killings until the systemic issues in the police can be addressed.
Valerie said she still supports the police department’s efforts for ‘bigger’ policy changes to make traffic stops safer, such as a nearby Minnesota county also no longer prosecuting minor traffic violations.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has offered drivers what they call ‘not-reaching pouches’ that allow drivers to keep their license and insurance
Valerie Castile (pictured) helped bring the pouches to Minnesota and noted she thought it was a ‘brilliant idea’ as the police department looks to make traffic stops safer
She noted: ‘Some people don’t have to worry about that in the morning when their kids leave. They don’t have that anxiety and frustration that their child may not come home because of what’s happening in the world. But for the fact that my son was murdered, there probably wouldn’t be a not-reaching pouch.’
She also criticized the backlash and called for a people to try and find a middle ground.
‘My god, it’s a plastic cardholder, for God’s sake. Why are you upset and angry about a piece of plastic?’ the mother said.
‘It shows me that there’s still this division,’ she added. ‘No one’s looking at the middle ground. It’s us against them. And that has to end.’
Many social media users have criticized the pouches as a way to shift the blame on victims of police shootings
Back in 2016, Philando was driving with his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter when he was stopped for a broken taillight.
St Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez asked Philando for a driver’s license and proof of insurance, which he provided the officer through the driver’s side window.
Castile then told Yanez that he had a firearm in the vehicle along with a permit allowing him to legally carry the weapon.
Yanez pulled his gun out of his holster and shouted at Castile not to reach for his gun. Moments later he fired seven shots into the car, killing Castile.
Castile’s girlfriend streamed part of the event on Facebook after her boyfriend was shot and bloodied. Yanez is seen with his gun drawn, shouting: ‘I told him not to reach for it!’
‘You told him to get his ID sir, his driver’s license,’ Castile’s girlfriend responded.
‘Please officer don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him sir. He was just getting his license and registration,’ she added.
Philando Castile’s death was an inspiration for the pouches. Castile (pictured) was shot seven times in an attempt to reach for his information and not for the gun he was legally permitted to own
The officer’s lawyer said that his client thought he was approaching someone who resembled a suspect in an armed robbery.
A year after the incident Yanez was acquitted on charges of manslaughter and two lesser charges by a jury consisting of 10 white people and two black.
More recently. in April 2021, another Minnesota man – 20-year-old Daunte Wright – was killed by Officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop after he resisted arrest and she threatened to taser him.
Bodycam footage showed one officer trying to handcuff Wright as a second officer told him he was being arrested on a warrant. Wright immediately jumped back into his car in an apparent attempt to flee.
A struggle then broke out between the officers and Wright, who was still sitting inside his car.
‘I’ll taser you! I’ll taser you! Taser! Taser! Taser!’ Potter could be heard shouting in her bodycam video.
Immediately after, Potter can be heard saying: ‘Holy sh*t. I shot him’.
Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright was killed by Officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop after he resisted arrest and she threatened to taser him
In court she claimed that she meant to use her taser instead of her handgun when she fatally shot Wright on April 11.
Potter has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in addition to a prior charge of second-degree manslaughter.
Similar tragedies occurred in South Carolina in 2014, when Sean Grouber shot motorist Levar Jones after stopping him in Richland County for not wearing a seat belt.
In Alabama that same year a similar situation unfolded when an policeman shot an unarmed Air Force officer.
Recent officer-involved shootings during traffic stops
Although a 2019 study from the Michigan Law Review suggests that violence during traffic stops is very rare, there has been a call to reform how routine stops are policed in recent years.
March 2014: A cop in Opelika, Alabama, fired at an airman who had gotten into an accident on his way to a Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, causing internal damage, all while he was holding a wallet.
September 2014: A former South Carolina state trooper shot and injured Levar Jones in 2014 after he attempted to get his wallet during a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation.
July 2016: Philando Castile is killed by a suburban Minneapolis cop. Castile was driving with his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter when he was stopped. The officer thought he was reaching for the gun he told the officer he was legally allowed to carry.
April 2021: Twenty-year-old Minnesota man Daunte Wright was killed by Officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop after he resisted arrest and she threatened to taser him.
August 2021: Officer Ella French is fatally shot in the head during a routine stop in West Englewood, Illinois.