A mobile phone videoThe largest social-justice protest movement in the US in the past fifty years was sparked by a cellphone video of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, placing his knee on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man, George Floyd, on a Minneapolis street corner on May 25, 2020. The witness was a teenage bystander.
After a convenience shop employee accused Mr. Floyd of using a fake $20 money, he was taken into custody.
The Hennepin County medical examiner determined that Mr. Floyd’s death was a homicide brought on by a combination of police use of force (he had been handcuffed and pinned under Mr. Chauvin’s knee for nine and a half minutes), fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, and his preexisting medical issues).
Mr. Floyd’s family hired forensic pathologists, who claimed that the police officers involved were to responsible for his death due to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.
Thomas Lane held Mr. Floyd’s legs, J. Alexander Kueng knelt on his upper legs and grabbed his wrist, and Tou Thao kept onlookers away, but at least one, Darnella Frazier, videotaped virtually the whole incident. Mr. Floyd yelled, “I can’t breathe.”
The Video Highlighted Policing Issues
Following the widespread distribution of the video showing Mr. Floyd’s detention and murder, protests broke out in Minneapolis, and Mayor Jacob Frey declared that the four cops had been fired. They were accused of breaching Mr. Floyd’s civil rights and indicted.
Long-standing problems with the training methods and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department, notably the failure of the other officers to actively interfere, were crystallized in bodycam footage and another bystander video.
The more junior cops, some of whom had been trained by Mr. Chauvin, did not intervene despite cries from bystanders, including an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter.
Janashortal posted a tweet that George Floyd was murdered by police:
AG Merrick Garland begins with the fact – George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police pic.twitter.com/zKgzpyz5sN
— janashortal (@janashortal) June 16, 2023
On-duty Officers Were Convicted by Prosecutors in a Rare Victory
By demonstrating that a seasoned police officer with Mr. Chauvin’s expertise should have understood that Mr. Floyd was in bodily distress during the arrest, the prosecution established their case against the officers.
The Minneapolis Police Department alleged that Mr. Chauvin was a rogue officer during a weeks-long trial that was live-streamed to prevent overcrowding a courtroom during the coronavirus pandemic. During his nearly 20 years in the department, he had been the focus of at least 22 complaints or internal inquiries. Only one of the incidents led to official punishment.
On April 20, 2021, Mr. Chauvin was convicted guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. This was a rare instance of a police officer being found guilty of murder for an accident while on duty.
Two months later, he received a sentence of 22 and a half years in jail, significantly more than his attorneys had asked for: probation and credit for time already served. This was less than the 30 years the prosecution had wanted. Mr. Chauvin would have to wait until he was close to 60 years old, in 2035 or 2036, to be eligible for parole.
In both state and federal court, the other three officers were also found guilty.
It Was Discovered That Brutality Was Pervasive in the City’s Policing
Police brutality complaints have a long history in Minneapolis. Even though just around 20% of Minneapolis’ people are Black, the police utilized force against Black citizens in over 60% of the incidents in the five years before Mr. Floyd’s murder.
Other Minneapolis police officers who killed Black men during those years went unpunished. This included the shootings of Jamar Clark, 24, who was shot in 2015 after allegedly attempting to take an officer’s gun, and Thurman Blevins, 31, who was shot in 2018 while sprinting through an alley while yelling, “Please don’t shoot me.” Both of these men were armed.
Tycel Nelson, a Black boy who was tragically shot by an officer in 1990, had his mother represented by Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who oversaw the state’s prosecution of the police. A legal settlement was won by Mr. Ellison.
The Police Department Had Issues, According to the State
Following Mr. Floyd’s passing, a two-year investigation by the state’s Department of Human Rights revealed that the Minneapolis Police Department habitually used racially discriminatory policing tactics and failed to hold officers accountable for misconduct. It claimed that the Office of Police Conduct Review for the city handled half of the complaints it looked at improperly.
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A Plan to “Defund the Police” Was Unsuccessful
During large-scale protests in Minneapolis following Mr. Floyd’s passing, cries to “defund the police” (a national campaign seeking spending cuts to police forces) reverberated across the city. The campaign gained traction in the city, and at one point, the majority of the City Council vowed to abolish the Police Department.
However, voters there voted not to replace the Police Department with a public safety organization in November 2021, with 56% of voters rejecting the ballot initiative. They also chose to re-elect Mr. Frey, who vigorously defended the police and fought for their preservation.
The Minneapolis police chief at the time of Mr. Floyd’s murder, Medaria Arradondo, was also against the Police Department being replaced. The first Black leader of the department, Mr. Arradondo, testified against Mr. Chauvin during his trial. After 30 years with the police, he took an early retirement last year.
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Although Attitudes Are Changing, Budgets Are Expanding
Before Mr. Floyd was assassinated, Minneapolis had around 900 sworn police officers. About 600 officers remain in the force due to retirements and resignations. Significant staff cuts have occurred in other cities, and the New York Police Department experienced its highest year-over-year resignation rate in the previous 20 years last year.
Police forces are under more scrutiny and oversight across the nation, but attempts to “defund” them have largely failed. The budget for the Minneapolis Police Department has even increased.
Keep up with the news and get some food for thought by visiting the website CaliforniaExaminer.net.