I wasn’t there when George Floyd died under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin, nor was I in the courtroom seeing and hearing all the evidence. So I cannot pronounce with full certitude on the verdict.
But, like everyone else, I could view video, read testimony, and at least reach an informed opinion. From that perspective, I feel justice was served with Chauvin’s conviction for murder.
As always in cases like this, portrayals of the victim’s character come into play. Family and friends tend to lionize their deceased loved one, completely understandable but often less than fully accurate. George Floyd had numerous run-ins with the law, and apparently had issues that, while perhaps meriting compassion, potentially victimized others.
Focusing extensively on his past record, however, cannot justify what Chauvin did to him. His alleged offense in this instance—passing a bad check—was not a violent crime. Yes, he apparently violently resisted being put in a squad car, claiming claustrophobic trauma. But Chauvin had him subdued and cuffed; he was not at that point a threat to anyone.
We learned, from video and testimony, how Chauvin dismissed the pleas of bystanders—and an off-duty city firefighter/EMT—who warned him that Floyd was in trouble. Apparently, those bystanders had a better handle on the situation than the professional police officer, who somehow couldn’t tell—or just didn’t care—that he was crushing the life out of a helpless human being. And if Floyd’s past background was relevant, what about Chauvin’s long trail of previous misconduct complaints?
A “use of force expert,” a former police officer testifying for the defense, compared Chauvin’s action to a cop tasering someone, who then falls, hits his head, and dies. Well, I’m no “expert,” but there seems to me a major difference between a split-second action that accidently results in a tragedy, and kneeling on a man’s neck for over nine minutes, slowly squeezing the life out of him.
So the verdict seems just to me. But the behavior in the streets, complete with threatened riots if Chauvin was not convicted, was deplorable. Not to be uncharitable, but I’ve always found California Rep. Maxine Waters a source of unintended comic relief, with her constant over-the-top hysterics whenever somebody dares to disagree with her. But the spectacle of a member of Congress in the streets, deliberately undermining our system of due process by demanding a certain verdict while the jury is deliberating, was scandalous.
Several more police killings of African Americans during and after the Chauvin trial were, to some, further proof of “systemic racism” within law enforcement. To others, myself included, they confirmed what even CNN’s Don Lemon observed: that every police shooting is different, and must be judged on its own specific facts.
As African American Congresswoman (and former police chief) Val Demings of Florida affirmed, that was surely the case in Columbus, Ohio, where a police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old girl as she attacked another young African American girl with a knife.
The shooting was, as the Biden White House said, “a tragedy.” Our hearts break for the slain girl, a foster child who doubtless had a troubled life.
But the police officer’s “main thought” was “preventing a tragedy and a loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted,” Demings told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Now everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and freezing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability.”
In Minnesota, not far from where the Chauvin trial was in progress, a black man—allegedly resisting arrest after a traffic stop revealed an open warrant related to an attempted armed robbery charge —was shot to death by a police officer who somehow mistook her gun for a taser. A tragic and fatal mistake no police officer should make.
This was different from the Columbus case; there was no imminent threat to life that prompted this shooting. But it was also different from the killing of George Floyd: it was a momentary, unintentional lapse by the officer, not a sustained brutalizing of a helpless man.
Again, as Don Lemon said, every case is different.
And let’s not lose sight of the violence being directed against cops, and whether the current anti-cop zealotry—itself a form of bigotry—is contributing to that violence.
We’ve had two such incidents on Long Island recently: one cop nearly died from a brutal stabbing, another was killed, by a hit-and-run driver—an African American woman who, it transpired, had earlier that same day posted a vicious anti-cop rant on social media.
While I fully support and deeply appreciate the work of our police officers, I recognize that there are bad cops, and I favor reasonable reforms in law enforcement.
But consideration of such reforms is virtually impossible in the current climate of anti-police demonization, de-policing policies demanded by radicals and enacted by progressive mayors and governors, and the terrifying nationwide spike in violent crime that has resulted.
Until order is restored, the first priority must be empowering police to better protect public safety—especially in poor and minority communities hardest hit by that crime wave. Thus have anti-cop extremists and progressive politicians undermined the momentum for responsible police reforms that emerged following the murder of George Floyd.