Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Philando Castile debacle - what can we learn?

Knoxville Police Motorcycle
photo by Liston Matthews
There's nothing you or I can do for Philando Castile. But what can we do to minimize the chances of our suffering the same fate he did?

So, here's some food for thought. Please chime in with your ideas.

The police officer on patrol is analogous to the Apex Predator in the wild.
His job includes many duties, such as catching criminals, catching drunk drivers, and so forth. One of those jobs is to catch those of us who violate traffic laws. He may very well be on an adrenaline rush when pulls you or me over. He may be agitated because of something he has just experienced. . .
Our job is to help him complete the traffic stop, without the benign traffic stop advancing to the point that we get killed.

I listened to Tom Gresham and Jeff Knox discuss the Castile situation on Tom's GUNTALK RADIO. You can hear it right HERE. You can read Jeff's commentary HERE.

Tom brought up, in correspondence with me, the conflicting messages you may get when encountering the police:
. . . here’s the big problem no one talks about.
Often (!) the officer gives you conflicting instructions, or two officers are telling you to do very different things.
You can get killed in the middle of that, and people have.
Here's my solution to the problem. Is it 100% perfect? I would prefer to not find out. I believe that from a psychological point of view, the officer will most likely not react if you do absolutely nothing. With that in mind, speaking specifically about traffic stops:

  • Have your driver's license, (carry permit maybe*), and your registration and proof of insurance available before the officer comes up to the window of your car. 
  • Roll all the windows all the way down, if possible. Its easier to dry some rainwater than clean your blood off the seat.
  • Put the registration and proof of insurance on the dash. Hold your driver's license and permit in your left hand, in such a way that the officer can reach and take them.
  • Put both hands on the steering wheel. If there are passengers in the car, what do YOU suggest for them?
  • Keep those hands in the steering wheel until the officer buys into any motion you might make, TWICE! Remember, the Apex Predator is programmed to react to movement. 
  • If the officer orders you to do X, repeat back to him, "Officer, I understand you want me to do X. Is that correct?"  -THEN-  "Officer, if I do X that means that I need to move my right hand to _____. Is that what you want me to do?"
  • Get that dialog going. Help the officer complete his job successfully. If he orders you out of the vehicle, try to get him to confirm that is what he wants you to do. Remember, you want him to buy into any motion twice before that motion starts.
One other thing. Alongside the road is not the appropriate venue to argue with the police about your rights. If appropriate, get the officer's identification and file a complaint with the department.

I encourage comments from anyone, and would especially like to see any police officer's perspective.


*In some states, such as Tennessee, vehicle carry is lawful without a permit. In some states, you are required to notify the officer if you are armed. In other states, such as Tennessee, you are not. If you are in New Jersey and armed, well . . . . you are in deep kimchi.

Thanks to Tom Gresham for his addressing this on his show and providing me with additional information.


  1. When you are being stopped by the police while driving a vehicle, as quickly as possible signal your intent to pull over to the officer, pull over when you can safely do so. Lower your windows and simply place your hands on the upper part of your steering wheel and wait until the officer approaches you. If it is dark outside, turn on your interior lights immediately upon stopping before placing your hands on the wheel. Do not retrive any documents until asked by the officer. If you are armed, relay that to the officer, advising where your weapon is located. Above all, be polite with the officer. This comes from a veteran of law enforcement who has stopped thousands of motorists over a 26 year career.

  2. "Have your driver's license, (carry permit maybe*), and your registration and proof of insurance available before the officer comes up to the window of your car."

    This is a really bad idea !! Put yourself in the officer's shoes for a second. He has initiated the traffic stop, he gets out of his vehicle, only to see you fumbling around in your vehicle for who knows what ? A gun ? (or do you drive around with your license and registration in your hand at all times ?) If I'm the cop, seeing you fumbling around in your vehicle is going to put me on the edge before even getting to your vehicle. Not a good idea !!
    Better to roll down the windows and put your hands on the window sill or on the steering wheel in plain sight. Then when the officer gets to your vehicle and asks for the information, tell him/her where it is located, and that you are going to get them out. Just try to be calm and reasonable - and above all - cooperative and respectful.

  3. 1) If your Reichs Auto und Fahrt Papieren are attached to the sun visor you can retrieve them while keeping your hands in sight of the nice Sturmmann.
    2)In the car I keep my piece in a little commpartment with a door in the dash so it's not on my person should I have to exit the vehicle. I don't mention it unless asked.
    3) In any dealings with the Kripos your life is in danger. Never forget that. _revjen45

    1. Sure enough. Illinois now requires 'fear the police/compliance' in drivers ed. This addresses the symptom, not the problem. Police have earned every bit of the disrespect and fear they get. They need to quit fighting the failed war on drugs and get back to protecting and serving citizens instead of themselves.

  4. I agree with the first two commenter's. I believe any getting into the glove box or storage area, or getting anything from your pocket, waistband , or from uder or beteen the seats is a bad idea while the officer is approch is a bad idea. And in TN if you give the officer your drivers license you also just gave him your carry permit number and when he runs your license it will tell him you have a permit. If the officer has been properly trained he will be relieved wwhen he finds out you have a permit. I recommend providing your drivers license and Handgun carry permit. When the officer asks for your license simply confirm the request by saying I have my license and HCP in my XXXX it OK to slowly retrieve them? At that point the officer will almost certainly ask if you have a firearm in the car. If the answer is yes, tell the officer where it is before moving. Steve Mead


Please maintain civility and G-rating on comments.