As the narratives emerge on the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent civil unrest and rioting across the country, we should keep the attention on the murderous violation of civil rights and the environment in which it exists.
The Floyd death, while no less horrific than that of Philando Castile or Jamar Clark, shows a darker truth about the state of police-race relations: Even when a black man is subdued and handcuffed, he can be killed.
The law enforcement culture in Minneapolis allowed police officer Derek Chauvin to use an unauthorized use of force, knee-to-throat technique on a black man in handcuffs.
We only have to look at the reaction of other peace officers to know this killing was far over the edge.
Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington at a press conference talked of Floyd’s death. “We’ll call it murder … that’s what it looked like to me.”
The technique by which Floyd was subdued and killed was broadly condemned by police officers around the country.
“Any officer who abuses their power or stands by and allows it to happen does not deserve to wear the badge, period,” Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown told the Associated Press.
Said Chuck Wexler, of the Police Executive Research Forum, a firm that researches police practices. “No police academy that we know of teaches a police officer to use their knee, to put it on their neck. That’s just not taught because that can impact their breathing and their carotid artery (a crucial vessel that supplies blood to the brain). So when police look at that video, they are shocked that those tactics were used.”
But many would like to change this truthful narrative. President Donald Trump has changed the narrative to aim the country’s anger at rioters and, for good measure, blame the governors who he says were “weak” in response to riots.
Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the union representing Minneapolis officers, took a similar diversion by blaming the city’s response to the riot in a letter to members, and said fired officers were not given due process. Kroll has long been a major obstacle for Minneapolis police chiefs to reform department practices and race relations.
Kroll should heed the advice of Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy, who tweeted in regard to the video of Floyd under the knee of Chauvin: “If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”
We would do well to keep our focus on the horrendous and dark moment recorded in this violent loss of life, the shredding of civil rights and the environment that it allows it to mutate from one injustice to another.