June 16, 2017

ST.PAUL, Minn. – Today, a jury in Ramsey County found Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty of the 2016 killing of Philando Castile.

The following statement can be attributed to Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota:

"The jury's decision to acquit Officer Yanez does not negate the fact that Philando Castile’s tragic death is part of a disturbing national pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Philando Castile was one of 1,092 individuals killed by the police in 2016. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable. While many officers carry out their jobs with respect for the communities they serve, we must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement.

Two Supreme Court decisions from the 1980’s allow officers to use deadly force when a reasonable officer on the scene could reasonably fear for their safety. These two decisions create an atmosphere where police violence is sanctioned based on what we think a hypothetical officer could have felt, even if, in reality, the officer was acting recklessly, had ill motives or was acting based on implicit bias. Taking another person’s life is the most extreme action a police officer can take, and consequently new standards are needed to better ensure that police killings happen rarely.

The ACLU will continue to fight for racial justice. We must end the prevailing policing paradigm where police departments behave more like occupying forces, imposing their will to control communities. This type of 'us vs. them' policing antagonizes many communities of color by casting a blanket of suspicion over an entire race, often under the guise of solving crime.

To build trust, we need a democratic system of policing where our communities have an equal say in the way their neighborhoods are policed. Collaboration, transparency, and communication between police and communities around the shared goals of equality, fairness, and public safety is the path forward."

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