The continuing fallout from the George Floyd affair exposes some rather nasty truths about the justice system, and the officers who populate it. We should not allow the excesses of the protesters to blind us to the problems with our police. Nor should we allow police to gloss over the incident that started the scrutiny.
Nearly two months ago, in response to a call that Floyd had passed a bad twenty, four police officers descended on George Floyd, a response already in excess of the allegation that started it. Police searched Floyd to see if he had any more counterfeit money, which he did not. Given the sheer amount of bad currency out there (The Treasury Department believes nearly $70 million in twenties is in circulation), a charge of passing a bad bill would have been impossible to pursue. (The owner of the restaurant that Floyd was at stated he was a repeat and valued customer. She would not have pressed charges, as she didn't believe a crime occured.) Despite this, the poilice still decided to arrest Floyd, something unjustified under the circumstances.
Upon being cuffed, Floyd apparently panicked and fell to the ground, unresponsive. He pled not to be put in the car, and refused to stand up. Despite the fact that he was technically resisting arrest, he plainly posed no threat to the officers. No use of force was authorized under police policies. Yet, MLPS had the common practice of kneeling on the neck of uncooperative suspects to punish them for making police officer's lives difficult. Officially, the Department has demanded officers stop doing this, as it has led to several serious injuries.
For eight minutes, George Floyd begged for his life and cried out in obvious pain. The three other officers physically prevented onlookers from assisting him, threatening violence and arrest to good samaritans. One can hear onlookers begging police to stop, as the officers mocked Floyd's distress, and adjusted themselves to maximize his pain. Even once people started pointing out the Floyd had stopped moving, and stopped breathing, the officer refused to remove his knee from his neck.
Performed by any normal citizen, the facts recited above would be charged as conspiracy to commit First Degree Murder. Four men planned to deliberately injure a defenseless man, doing something inherently dangerous to his health, and death resulted, the textbook definition of Felony Murder. Worse, because they were repeatedly informed of the quality and wrongfulness of their acts, and the harm they were causing, the further steps to complete their illegal course of action counts as premeditation under the plain wording of the law as they obviously "considered" their actions.
Inexplicably, the initial report blamed Floyd's death SOLELY on drug abuse, without giving any credit to the vicious assault he suffered. MLPS clearly planned to sweep the actions under the carpet. After this spawned violent riots, Keith Ellerman originally waffled, claiming he had no legal authority to charge the officers (a bizarre lie), but finally relented to criticism and charged the laughably light third degree murder, which he stated he would plead down to involuntary manslaughter. No view of the facts could possibly support such lenient charging. Even the subsequent raising the charges to Second Degree is still obviously deliberate undercharging.
Rather, this is part of the common trend, highlighted in the previous article on qualified immunity, to excuse shocking misconduct by police officers that would result in life sentences or death penalties for anyone else. The system as a whole is geared towards promoting, encouraging, and defending blatant criminality by officers. Had the response to Floyd's death been anything less severe, these officers would never have been charged at all. And only through relentless criticism and nationwide scrutiny are the officers going to get anything close to what they actually deserve.
While many commentators are trying to downplay this as some isolated and bizarre outlier (and ignoring the collaboration of the rest of the Minneapolis system), the constant police abuses recorded at the two months of following protests make this an unteniable fiction.
Looters and arsonists were given free reign throughout the city after Floyd's death, with no serious attempt made by police to stop it. Entire blocks were destroyed, whole neighborhoods ravaged, while police stood by twiddling their thumbs. Barracaded in their station, they only responded to the violence when they were targetted; everyone else was left to the tender mercies of the mob. https://reason.com/2020/05/28/minneapolis-police-killed-george-floyd-then-failed-to-protect-property-owners-from-riots/ Whatever the purpose of the lack of a response, it sent a powerful message that the police were willing to respond to criticism with criminal indifference. Sadly, this message played out in cities across the country.
Worse, far from trying to quell the lawlessness, police at every level have been repeatedly caught trying to fan the flames and incite violence. A mysterious "umbrella man", later identified as a local police officer destroyed several windows at an AutoZone and likely caused it's later arson. https://www.ajc.com/news/police-deny-link-mysterious-umbrella-man-who-broke-windows-during-riot/3j8cSrRBHjvnvX0PRwIYIP/ A North Dakota officer showed up to protests drinking beer and shouting white supremecist slogans, trying to encourage the protests to escalate. https://www.sayanythingblog.com/entry/were-not-going-to-get-much-justice-from-cops-investigating-themselves/. After trying to cover up the incident for over a month, North Dakota police finally admitted his actions caused serious risk to the public. Depressingly, even the FBI has been accused of participating. One must wonder why our police departments are trying to create crime, rather than stop it.
Yet, where police were sluggish or inert against actual criminals, they did not hesitate to use extreme force against nonviolent protesters, posing absolutely no threat to them. Hundreds of videos surfaced following the first wave of protests, showing police beating unarmed men and women, most of whom had their hands up and were backing away. https://graphics.reuters.com/MINNEAPOLIS-POLICE/PROTESTS-VIDEOS/oakveazawvr/ Officers used rubber bullets, paintballs and tear gas against people watching the protests from their own property. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/police-tactics-floyd-protests.html And, most disturbing;ly, cops were quick to arrest, or even attack, reporters who were filming their lawlessness. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/06/george-floyd-protests-reporters-press-teargas-arrested Everyday new lawsuits emerge showing the horrific actions officers took against innocent citizens. Police brutality is your reward for protesting police brutality.
Though the feds are often seen as the heroes, fighting state corruption....for some odd reason...they are hardly blameless. The FBI initiated dozens of baseless investigations, and federal prosecutors were all too happy to file frivilous charges against activists all over the country merely exercizing their right to criticize their government. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/federal-agents-monitored-facebook-arrest-protesters-inciting-riots-court-records-n1231531 Less than a week ago, federal agents were kidnapping protesters in unmarked vans. https://reason.com/2020/07/20/sen-brian-schatz-says-libertarians-should-be-freaking-out-about-portland-where-has-he-been/ President Trump employed local officers to tear gas peaceful protesters so that he could have a photo op. And he has led a chorus of voices in Congress demanding more violent police actions. Not less. The federal government is fanning the flames, not dousing them.
Americans have been rightfully shocked and outraged by the very public displays of what has been building with police for quite some time. Since it is beyond obvious that the system is unwilling to police itself, and has no interest in trying, various proposals, including defending the police in Minneapolis, have been put forward to curb widespread police misconduct. It is increasingly apparent that drastic action is needed to solve this problem.
While a few heroic police chiefs have taken steps to reform their departments, on the whole, police have stubbornly resisted any attempts to curtail their excesses. Showing solidarity with the criminals in blue who killed Floyd, officers have created further outrage by repeating the same manuever used on Floyd to mock the protests. https://time.com/5866215/allentown-police-kneel-protests/ Officers in Minneapolis have played the victims, resigning in protest over the "unfair" prosecution of the four officers involved in Floyd's murder. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/us/minneapolis-police-george-floyd-protests.html They seem to believe that if they can't kill, assault, maim, and rob with impunity, citizens deserve no protection at all. With oversight to make sure they can't repeat their criminality...they can't do their jobs! The self parody is somewhat dampened by the underlying message.
Police have shown us that corruption and brutality are not isolated incidents but are systematic and stem from essentially criminal attitudes inherent in policing itself. Bandaids of banning chokeholds or other specific manuevers simply fail to address the fact that police themselves are the problem. It today essentially a criminal organization in itself. And, while not every police officer is engaged in brutality, those who don't are all too willing to stand behind the offenders in support and solidarity.Police believe themselves above the law, and apparently most prosecutors and judges agree.
The two month saga should shatter the myth of the professional picture of the law enforcement officer as the good guy. The average American has now seen too much evidence that police are just as much of a danger to the lives of the citizen as criminals are. In fact, police are worse, because they have the official sanction of the state and the machinery of the justice system to protect them in their wrongdoing. They are more organized and better armed, and will tirelessly subvert the liberty of the citizen, while convinced of their own righteousness. Much as one need not support the Columbian cartels to oppose MS-13, or be a fan of the Bloods to condemn the Crips, we should reject the false defenses of police and their supporters that we need should focus instead on the rioters, and leave the police be. Both are serious problems to be addressed.
Police are the servants of society, and exist solely to protect it's safety and health. For far too long now, police have inverted that relationship, believing themselves society's master, with rights existing only at their whim. True reform must forever break that attitude, with swift, certain, and horrible consequences for those officers who step outside of their role in the future, not to mention their aiders and abbettors in the courts. And as the initial reactions of lawmakers to address the problem have slowed into inertia, we must continue to hold our leaders accountable for cleaning up their own houses.