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Think of some common safety measures that shouldn’t be necessary. Coffee cups imprinted with the advisory “Caution: Hot” might be one. Another could be the surgeon general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes.
These messages can be annoying because they state the obvious. Others become burdensome when they actively interfere with quality of life, like smoke alarms that shriek when someone takes a hot shower, or gasoline cans that require a special knack to dispense fuel without spilling.
Now comes to market a device of such evident good sense and simplicity that it begs to be made a piece of standard automotive equipment. It is the “Not Reaching” pouch, designed with Black motorists in mind. Like the coffee cups labeled “hot,” it shouldn’t be necessary. The death of Philando Castile argues that it is.
The Not Reaching pouch attaches to a dashboard’s air vents. It is translucent and fashioned to hold a driver’s license and other documents that a police officer may demand during a traffic stop. A driver equipped with such a pouch can produce those documents while keeping both hands in plain view. Valerie Castile, whose son Philando was killed during a 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights, figures that such a pouch might have saved his life.
Or not. Castile was shot to death as he reached for his wallet, after properly informing the officer who stopped him that he had a permit to carry a gun. The officer who ended his life was acquitted of manslaughter and firearm charges, but he was fired from the St. Anthony police force after his acquittal.
The existence of a Not Reaching pouch cannot substitute for good judgment, and it won’t eliminate the need for drivers to treat any encounter with police as carefully as possible.
But it might help.
The inventor of the pouch — Jacquelyn Carter, of Alexandria, Va. — was thinking of Castile when she created it. She was also thinking of her son, a Navy medic who served in Afghanistan. Like any mother, she worried about her son when he was on deployment, but she worried about him when he was back in the States as well.
Valerie Castile, who sits on the board of Carter’s nonprofit, the Alliance for Safe Traffic Stops, hopes to see the pouches widely distributed in Minnesota. She estimates that the invention might have given her son a 50/50 chance at survival, which is considerably better than he got in Falcon Heights that day.
The pouches cost about $10 and are available at notreaching.com.