This is an update of the post. Not to change the post, but to correct my lack of editing before the original post…apologies! I will add a * to indicate where an edit was made.
There just is no delicate way of approaching this recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The images, the video, and the fact of his death make the discussion difficult, to say the least.
Disclaimer: As you all know, I am a * retired, LAPD Detective Supervisor. My career and my life were greatly influenced by that experience. I will be the first to seek a reasoned and logical, fact-based explanation for actions taken by police, when those facts and details are available. But in *seeking *facts you sometimes run into realities that are, to say the least, disturbing and unavoidable for their negative truths.
BLUF in outline format:
- George Floyd was a suspect in an attempt to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. That on the surface is a crime, a fact.
- Someone alerted the police to respond and take enforcement action, a fact. * The police did not happen by, or divine that a crime was being committed and simply show up, *nor presumably *did they see a black man on the street and decided to go and assault *and ultimately kill him)…part fact and part opinion.
- A video shows a segment in which an officer is taking Mr. Floyd into custody, presumably handcuffed, and walking him to a location and sitting him down, this is partial video evidence.
- At some point, additional officers arrive, how many I do not know, and what generated the arrival of these officers is not known to me.
- At a later point Mr. Floyd is seen laying on the ground, chest down, head turned to his right side, and an officer is seen with his knee in the area between Mr. Floyd’s head and upper shoulders…in other words, his neck.
- The officers left hand appears to be in his own pocket *(a later closer review of that sequence makes it actually appear that his gloved hand makes it look like his hand is in his pocket, but it is not, I believe). If both hands are in his pockets this would likely apply full body weight to the knee that is in Mr. Floyd’s neck.
- The video segment that I have seen indicates that the time frame at that point was approximately three (3) minutes. Another video is reported to time out the knee to the neck at approximately 8 minutes.
- An audio segment of one of the videos captures a man’s voice, almost obviously Mr. Floyd’s voice, saying in so many words that he cannot breathe.
- Uninvolved citizens are heard repeating Mr. Floyd’s pleading that he cannot breathe.
- And then finally there is a point where there *are no more words coming from Mr. Floyd and he appears to no longer be physically or verbally responsive. This is the point where he is either unconscious or possibly already deceased.
This outline is what I observed and read online and via news reports. There may be video and audio evidence that I am not aware of. Also there are certainly other factors and events that transpired that I am not aware of.
No matter that. Whatever lead to him being placed in handcuffs and rendered under control, with apparently sufficient officers present to manage any physical resistance he might offer, in my ‘opinion’ he certainly could be considered safe,* and in custody, and ready for transport to jail.
But now we are faced with the unfortunate and ultimately untimely death.
Were there other factors leading to his death? I do not know, but the obvious factor is the officers’ knee to the neck and the time in this position on the ground. Mr. Floyd may have been very resistive prior to being in handcuffs and in the *custody of the officer seen walking him to a seated position. Mr. Floyd may have become more resistive to his custody, to the point of struggling with his cuffed body weight and mobility. Be that as it may, he was cuffed, and there *was more than one officer on the scene and in a position to manage his resistance.
Now again, I was not there. I have no awareness of how physical he might have been. But I am willing to take a chance at suggesting that this might have been a good point to phyically remove him from the ground and into a police vehicle, and off to jail.
This tragic death sheds a dark light on police and policing. It makes it difficult to get and keep people in appreciation for how tuff and uncertain the work of policing can be. This comes at a difficult time in America when we are already at each others face, though maintaining social distancing, with political an social divide (not intending to be flipant there).
Police work is an inexact science…if it even can be called a science, with all the uncertainties and nuances to maintaining and keeping the peace while enforcing laws. Arrests are seldom peaceful looking. Physical altercations with suspects are almost always violent to the point of life threatening. And the causes and rationales are never crystal clear.
Responsibility for these realities usually comes back to calls for police training. And while police training is always a constant requirement already, I do not see this particularly *arrest as a clear example of a lack of training. Yes, certainly some senior officer or supervisor could have intervened with orders to get the man up and move him into a police car. *Certainly, a supervisor should have exercised command and control of the scene. And perhaps something of this was present but for reasons I do not see or *hear, it did not work. I don’t know.
And lastly, I know how stressful and threatening police work can be. The dynamics of confrontation can often take command of a reasonable and well-trained person. But that is a known, *which can be mitigated…*and “yes,” with training and experience.
But what must also be considered, and this will cause a lot of hate mail coming my way…our society needs some training and conditioning as well. To begin with, attempting to pass counterfeit currency is a crime. No matter the denomination. So the person doing so has made a choice. You might say, he or they didn’t know it was counterfeit. So be it. But when notified and confronted by police, a peaceful response should…I repeat, should, get a cooperative response. The person arrested has a choice. Making the right choice should lead to a less physical or violent outcome. Pushing responsibility of knowing and acting better, solely to the police is like treating only half of the problem.
And then there is the rioting after the fact. Stealing underwear, tires, stockings, toilet paper and burning and destroying unrelated property may dramatically express someones frustration, or it may actually demonstrate my point about society, the public, also needing training, or better put, more adult conduct.
We are all at fault. And a man is dead, and a city is on fire. It does not, and should not have to be like this. This death should not have happened. And based on the actual facts, it may go beyond the reasonable challenges of police work to the point of being criminal. Mr. Floyd should be in jail, not in the Coroners custody.
Something for the legal system to sort out and for all of us to consider.
There is enough hate and conflict in America, we don’t need this.
My prayers to the family of Mr. Floyd.