By Linh Nguyen
Following the killing of George Floyd by an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, the National Black Police Association issued a statement seeking justice by calling for immediate, appropriate action.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. The officers involved at the scene were responding to a call about a man suspected of forgery. They found Floyd sitting atop a blue car and appearing to be under the influence. According to the original police report, Floyd “physically resisted officers” after being told to get off the vehicle. The officers placed Floyd in handcuffs and called for an ambulance as it appeared Floyd was suffering medical distress. A bystander video shows Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck during the arrest, compressing his airway, while Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. After a few minutes, Floyd lost consciousness and was presumed dead. Floyd was pronounced dead later that night at the hospital. The bystander video was shared to social media and sparked masses of people and organizations demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to institutionalized racism.
The National Black Police Association, a national organization dedicated to promoting advocacy, fairness and justice for officers of color, voiced their dismay at the brutality committed by the police force against a member of the Black community.
“His death was unnecessary and grossly negligent,” the statement said. “The question becomes the true intent of the officers, and the ongoing law enforcement conversation surrounding the preventable deaths of Black citizens, which is often an aspect of policing that goes unresolved in response to these deadly incidents.”
Based on the surveillance video, Floyd, in handcuffs, was calmly walked from the blue car and seated nearby. However, video footage showing how Floyd ended up on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck is missing.
The original police report did not detail Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, nor did it detail Floyd being pinned to the ground. It did not refer to the bystander video. The morning after, the police department issued a statement entitled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”
In the aftermath of the event, the FBI is conducting a federal civil rights investigation. Furthermore, the four officers present at the scene were fired.
“We are pleased to know that Chief Medaria Arradondo took swift action in the firing of the four officers involved,” the NBPA said. “We are pleased to know that the FBI is part of the investigation so quickly. We also expect appropriate charges, prosecution, and conviction for the killing of Mr. Floyd. However, true justice for Mr. Floyd and the Black community is long from done.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey actually requested that the FBI investigate. He also said that firing the officers was the “right call.
“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” Mayor Frey said in a statement posted to Twitter the morning after Floyd’s death. He continued, “What we saw is horrible. Completely and utterly messed up. The man’s life matters. He matters. He was someone[‘s] son. Someone’s family member. Someone’s friend. He was a human being and his life mattered. Whatever the investigation reveals, it does not change the simple truth, he should still be with us this morning. I believe what I saw and what I saw is wrong on every level. This does not reflect the values Chief Arradondo has worked tirelessly to fulfill. To our Black community, to the family: I’m so sorry.”
In contrast, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis avoided referring to remarks against racism in their statement, which said, “Now is not the time to rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers.”
“Respectfully, no one can deny what was seen–that a man’s life was taken unnecessarily, and attempts to cite ‘training’ and other common phrasing used after police-answerable deaths of Black citizens, does not relinquish the officers of responsibility or the criminal justice system of accountability,” the NBPA said in response to the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis’s statement.
Floyd’s family is seeking to press murder charges against the involved officers. Ben Crump, a national civil rights attorney, is representing Floyd’s family.
“This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge,” Attorney Crump said in a statement. “We will seek justice for the family of George Floyd, as we demand answers from the Minnesota Police Department. How many “while black” deaths will it take until racial profiling and undervaluing of black lives by police finally ends?”
The case of George Floyd called for public comparison to previous events of police brutality against African Americans, including the cases of Eric Garner in 2014 and Oscar Grant in 2009. Protests of hundreds of people emerged across the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In Minneapolis, the police used tear gas to break up these protests.
“Let’s speak truths: In America, it is clear that the humanity of Black people appears invisible to law enforcement,” the NBPA said in their conclusion. “What other explanation would there be for Chauvin to lean on the neck of a handcuffed Black man until he dies?” And, “Armed White men are allowed to stand on the steps of government buildings and protest that their liberty is being stepped on, unchallenged by law enforcement. But, too often, when unarmed Black citizens are alleged to have committed minor violations, freedom is no longer at play, and the door opens for death at the very hands of those who should be protecting and serving.
“The National Black Police Association calls on police chiefs and executives, and our partners in social justice and criminal justice reform to take heed and appropriate action now! Our power is in our collective missions. This is not a time to remain silent, nor is it a time to just give polite platitudes and statements that we are watching or continue to repeat that officers must be held accountable. We already know that. What are we going to do about law enforcement abuses and continued trauma? What will we do to ensure complete and true justice in this and every other case that we ‘monitor’? Our communities are calling on us, and the NBPA is calling on you, like us, to step up your game.”
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