A new initiative launched by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to "reduce deadly force encounters between law enforcement and citizens during traffic stops" has sparked furore online.
The DPS on Thursday tweeted pictures of its new "Not-Reaching Pouches," which it says will allow drivers to store their driver's license and insurance card "in plain sight in the vehicle on an air vent or other visible location."
The introduction of the pouches is part of a collaboration with Valerie Castile, whose innocent son Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in 2016.
St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was later found not guilty of manslaughter, opened fire when Castile reach for his permit-to-carry after telling the officer he was legally permitted to carry a firearm.
But the announcement that the Minnesota DPS had bought the pouches in partnership with agencies including Minnesota State Patrol and police departments in St. Paul, Bloomington, Crystal, St. Cloud and Rochester, among others, sparked intense criticism on social media.
One of the DPS' tweets showing the pouches was "quote-tweeted" more than 3,100 times but "liked" only 207, which in Twitter parlance is a sign that the tweet has gone viral for (very) negative reasons.
The main criticism was that the onus is being put on members of the public to prevent themselves from being shot by police, rather than on preventing police from opening fire during traffic stops.
Among those criticizing the move was Minnesota DFL Sen. Omar Fateh, who said: "The people of Minnesota, especially BIPOC Minnesotans, do not need the State to hand out tips and tricks on not getting killed by the police. We need the State to address its police violence problem instead of messaging that implies police brutality is the People’s fault."
The pouches were developed by Jacquelyn Carter in Virginia, whose son's birthday is the same day that Philando Castile died.
Valerie Castile said this week that she hopes the pouches can save lives.
They cost $10 each, but WCCO reports she plans to distribute them to driver's ed schools and organizations like the Hallie Q. Brown Center and the Truce Center in St. Paul.
In its press release, DPS Assistant Commissioner Booker Hodges said: "We are continually looking for ways to reduce deadly force encounters as these instances can be catastrophic for police officers, and community members.
"By working together with Ms. Castile, who has tirelessly advocated for these since her son was killed in a deadly force encounter with law enforcement, we are hoping these pouches help in some way reduce these instances, even if it's just one."