Dec 31, 2019

American of the Decade — Angela Kamoske of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department

Remember Philando Castile, human being. Mr. Castile
is pictured above after being gunned down by a Minnesota
cop during a traffic stop. Castile's young daughter was
in the back seat and his spouse was driving during
the execution by police officer Jeronimo Yanez.
"I watched the dash cam video. And it broke me. ... So today, I stand up and speak out, even if it means standing alone. To the family of Philando Castile, to those that loved him, and to everyone who watched that video and felt broken inside, I am sorry. This shouldn’t have happened. His life mattered."
Detective Angela Kamoske of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department

Madison, Wisconsin — The police execution of Philando Castile in Minnesota on July 6, 2016 is perhaps the most depraved killing of an innocent man during a period in which police turned into death squads across America.

Naturally, police unions defend the killings.

But amid the public outcry and international protests after the Castile execution, one police officer stood up and said, Philando Castile's life mattered; this should not have happened.

That American is Angela Kamoske of the Madison Police Dept.

Lt Angela Kamoske of the Madison Police
. Alone among every other police
officer in the country, Kamoske spoke out
against the killing of Philando Castile.
Ms. Kamoske is now a Lieutenant working in Madison's south side.

Kamoske listened to audio, watched the cell-phone video and read documents chronicling the killing of Castile with his family in the car.

Kamoske then stood up, spoke out, and acclaimed the humanity of Philando Castile and wrote a letter detailing her broken feeling and stating simply: His life mattered.

Her letter appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on June 25, 2017:

Philando Castile's Life Mattered

By Angela Kamoske

I have been a police officer for 19 years. I love my job and serving my community. I have learned over the course of my career to never assume anything. As I watched the events unfold on July 6, 2016, on a Facebook Live feed, I thought that there must be more that happened. There must have been such a threat that wasn’t captured on this video, that forced Officer Yanez to feel his only option was to shoot into a vehicle with a child in the back seat.

Over the past two days, I have listened to the audio interviews. I have read the documents. And then I watched the dash cam video. And it broke me. Officer Yanez was in a position that if he perceived a threat, he could have disengaged. He could have taken other steps to ensure everyone’s safety, and not have forced this outcome.

Shooting a seat-belted man, with a child in the back seat, was not the only option. Until those of us who wear the badge are willing to stand up and speak out when we see things that are wrong, and lead hard conversations, how can we ever expect change? How can we ever expect to rebuild trust within our communities? Barbecues and pick-up basketball games are nice, but that’s not going to do it.

So today, I stand up and speak out, even if it means standing alone. To the family of Philando Castile, to those that loved him, and to everyone who watched that video and felt broken inside, I am sorry. This shouldn’t have happened. His life mattered.

Have a fun and safe 2020.

Let's hope no more such acts of courage and decency become necessary.

Until that time, I salute Angela Kamoske, a lonely voice for humanity from the ranks of the police.

Here are some suggestions from the National Lawyers Guild - Minnesota Chapter.

The National Lawyers Guild - Minnesota Chapter unconditionally condemns in the strongest possible terms the murder of Philando Castile by St. Anthony Village police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The NLG expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to Mr. Castile’s family and loved ones.

It is a tremendous outrage that the repeated unjustifiable police killings, especially of African American males, have become such common knowledge yet continue unabated. While no one deserves to die at the hands of law enforcement, there is no pretext for police to attempt to rationalize the murder of Mr. Castile because he had so clearly done nothing wrong, was an exemplary citizen, and the horrendous death and police indifference to the effects of their actions was so painfully captured on cell phone video.

The NLG demands that government leaders end their pattern of enforcing the continued deadly status quo by failing to take any concrete action to hold police accountable or enact any meaningful reforms. The salience of this latest atrocity must spur immediate action to hold the responsible police officer accountable and initiate systemic change to end the serial police killings as well as the larger dynamic of police abuse and oppression in communities of color. The NLG recognizes that the most affected communities must have a voice in the specific changes to made, but calls for the following actions to be taken immediately:

1. A special independent prosecutor must be appointed to investigate and bring criminal charges against the murderer in this case. The special prosecutor must be independent of police influence, and have access to funding needed to hire investigators, experts, associates and cover other expenses needed to conduct a full investigation and prosecution. Responses to previous police shootings have repeatedly and invariably demonstrated that elected and career prosecutors are too beholden to police interests to be capable to delivering justice. The Ramsey County Attorney, the governor, and other appropriate officials must collaborate to make the special independent prosecutor a reality.

2. The office of an independent prosecutor must be permanently established to investigate and prosecute cases of deadly force and other abusive police conduct.

3. Minnesota law must be amended so that police officers have no more authority to use deadly force than other citizens. Specifically, Minnesota Statute § 609.066 which authorizes use of deadly force by peace officers must be repealed.

4. A special civilian commission must be established to propose specific, comprehensive and systemic reforms to police powers, policies, and governance. A majority of the commission must include representatives of communities disproportionately harmed by police abuse.

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