The Philando Castile Trial Reveals a Big Problem With a Popular Police Reform Effort

June 6th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Philando Castile was seen dying on a viral Facebook live video after being shot by a police officer, and now the woman who took the video is testifying at the officer's trial. Castile's fiance Diamond Reynolds took the stand on the first day of the Minnesota manslaughter trial for St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez, and part of her testimony revealed a problem with a police reform tactics. 


Castile died in July of 2016 after Yanez shot him at a traffic stop. CNN reported that the officer's defense attorney said that Castile was unable to properly follow commands because he had smoked marijuana. However, the prosecution said that Yanez did not give clear directions to Castile and shot him when he was merely reaching for his identification. 

CNN reported that in her testimony Reynolds said she and Castile had attended police barbecues "to show support," the type of events that have become popular as police looked for ways to improve their reputation and relationship with citizens after a string of high-profile shootings. Despite his support of police officers at community events, Castile was shot and killed anyway. 

"In this July 25, 2016, file photo, a memorial including a photo of Philando Castile adorns the gate to the governor's residence ..."

As police shootings have received more attention, the media has also publicized friendly interactions between police and members of their communities. 

In July of 2016, just weeks after Castile was shot and killed, the police in Wichita, Kansas planned a cookout with the local Black Lives Matter group called the "First Steps Community Cookout," which received national media attention



In August of 2016, a video began circulating of police officers in Halifax, Virginia pulling over drivers. However, the police weren't stopping them for traffic violations or warrants, they were stopping drivers to give them free ice cream. Police Chief Kevin Lands and Officer Brian Warner pulled drivers over and then eventually offered them a cone, according to USA Today. 

Surprise traffic stop

The police chief in Halifax, Virginia is getting calls from media around the country about this video -- which has gone viral. He and an officer pulled over drivers this week for violating a little known law. "You cannot drive on a hot day without ice cream." But instead of writing driving tickets, the two handed out cold treats to drivers The chief said he wanted to see more people smiling. I do too.

Posted by Scott Wise - WTVR CBS 6 on Saturday, July 30, 2016

“Well it’s actually against the law to drive on a hot day without an ice cream cone,” Warner says in the video. “So on behalf of the Halifax Police Department, we’re just making sure everybody is following all the laws today and are driving with ice cream cones."

However, The Root's Preston Mitchum wrote that the free ice cream misses the point and could give minorities unnecessary fear for their lives. 

"Not only is this supposed lighthearted humor a complete waste of resources and tax dollars, but it’s also dangerous to stop a driver for no apparent reason other than to show how 'good' a cop one is." wrote Mitchen. "It’s tone-deaf and out of touch with our reality and experiences as black people."

Black Lives Matter Protest

He pointed out that the ice cream does not change the controversial killings of black people at the hands of police.

"Perhaps police officers often forget the names of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Mike Brown and, most recently, Philando Castile—who was killed after being in the same car with his girlfriend (ironically the same configuration as the one shown in the video)—but black people never will," he wrote, referencing how Castile was shot and killed at a traffic stop not unlike the ice cream-giveaway stops.

In August of 2016, Black Lives Matter made an accusation that the trend of police community events is allegedly being used to discredit the BLM movement. 

"No matter how many stories and videos of racism, prejudicial policing, brutality and death surface, America still doesn’t believe Black people when we say we are dying," it read. "Instead, in a desperate search for redemption for killer cops and a deadly policing system, people laud these videos and articles as evidence that our stories and experiences are hyperbolic lies at best, dismissing the overwhelming evidence that we are indeed unfairly policed and killed."

RELATED: Tweet Sums up Why Philando Castile's Girlfriend Livestreamed His Death