In this world, lives can be given and taken. But once it is given, that life can only be taken. Once it is taken, that life can never be again, yet here we are again as another black man’s life was taken.
George Floyd died late Monday, May 25, as a Minneapolis police officer held a knee over his neck in response to him “resisting arrest.”
To call this a public execution may be sensationalizing the matter, but considering it was filmed for the public to see and that Floyd died later from the medical distress received from the encounter, the case for it is there.
Three other officers were called out on the matter as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired all four on Tuesday, May 26. It was the right call for sure, but what was not was how the other officers protected the suppressing officer.
If anyone had looked at the video of Floyd’s suppression by the Minneapolis Police Department, you’d hear him say “I can’t breathe.” But, you’d also see an officer posted between the camera and the altercation.
Insert Patrick Star -- yes, the Spongebob character -- saying “He’s just standing there … menacingly,” because that’s what he did.
He stopped the camera person from getting closer and paid no mind as Floyd said, “Please I can’t breathe,” “My stomach hurts,” “My neck hurts,” “Everything hurts.”
Now, according to reports, Floyd “physically resisted” police after they were called in to apprehend him for forgery. The need to protect oneself is understood, but I’m sure none of the police handbooks, rules or codes say use someone’s neck as a cushion for your knee.
Hell, if I was in the position as the other officer in the video, I’d have to demand that my “coworker” get off his neck and sit him up. If he didn’t, then I’d force him off of Floyd. If I lost my badge or was suspended then so be it. At least I save someone’s life -- someone’s brother, father, friend or all around loved one.
I think it’s been forgotten that all life should be treated as precious and it needs to be remembered. Even worse so, and this is something all police officers should know, the principles of modern day policing forged by Sir Robert Peel aren’t being practiced.
Principle Four states that “the degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”
So I ask where did the Minneapolis Police Department use reason to apprehend Floyd rather than force?
If it’s said that the officers asked him to “calm down” then I’ll have to refute that attempt at reason. Nowhere in the history of the phrase did anyone calm down after being told to “calm down.”
I asked Georgia’s own MPD -- the Moultrie Police Department -- how they handle a suspect’s resistance of arrest. Deputy Chief Michael Cox said no case is cookie cutter, rather they follow the standards resulting from U.S. Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor.
These standards ask if the officer’s actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the circumstances and facts of the situations regardless of underlying intent or motivation.
“There is no use of force continuum to judge because officers are different sizes, officers are of different sex, officers have different amounts of experience,” Cox said. “Officers have different amounts of knowledge on criminal histories as far as dealing with people before and their violence in the past.”
It just depends on the totality of the facts. The question to be asked, he said, was if the use of force was reasonable and necessary to justify it. This must be answered without the benefit of hindsight 20/20.
“Which means [asking] an officer with the same amount of experience, the same amount of training in that same situation, would they have responded the same way that this particular officer did,” Cox said. “And was it reasonable and was it necessary.”
This is what needs to be asked as Peel’s Sixth Principle states that “police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”
Frey, in a town hall streamed via Facebook, publicly admitted that the “technique” the officer used on Floyd’s neck was not permitted. He said “there is no reason to apply that kind of pressure to someone’s neck.”
“He was a human being and his life mattered,” he said. “Whatever the investigation reveals, it does not change the simple truth that he should be with us this morning.”
He goes on to say that the officers’ actions don’t represent the training or the accountability that the police department has worked for.
That’s important. Peel’s Seventh Principle states that “police at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”
This means we are who we are regardless of our station, so any ideals born/bred — depends on your stance of the nature vs. nurture argument — is how we police others.
Should you have elitist or racist notions going through your mind before becoming a police officer, regardless of its mission to protect and serve all people, you still police them according to your own ideals.
But, the Seventh Principle also says that police are the only members of the public paid to give full-time attention to duties “in the interests of community welfare and existence,” incumbent to citizens.
Everyone deserves to live, to feel protected by their country -- their home -- and as Frey said it himself, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
This was a failure on the officer’s training, a failure on his department, a failure on his city and, most importantly, yet another failure on black America.
George Floyd may have been suspected of an alleged forgery in progress who “physically resisted,” but he had the right to a fair trial and the right to be alive.
Bryce Ethridge is a reporter for The Moultrie Observer.