This article reflects upon the death of Mr. George Floyd that occurred on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota while he was in police custody. The police are currently under scrutiny in the United States due to deaths against African American males which has drawn national attention. Research indicates that there is a lack of trust in African American communities as it relates to the police. Police organizations should facilitate a plan that focuses on transparency as well as effective community policing strategies. Additionally, a review of police officers’ training may be warranted. Furthermore, this article will examine what steps are necessary to prevent additional violent acts that have been initiated as it relates to some of the riots in this country.
The Death of George Floyd: Minneapolis, Minnesota
On Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, Mr. George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Floyd was encountered by Minneapolis police officers for allegedly having committed a misdemeanor crime. Mr. Floyd was placed in handcuffs by police and was subsequently taken to the ground by a white police officer. The white police officer then put his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd while he was lying on the ground. Camera surveillance was able to capture this incident. Also, Mr. Floyd was subsequently observed on the video footage pleading with the police officer that he could not breathe. The officer remained kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd as he was gasping for air.
There was public outcry in the United States due to the death of George Floyd. Consequently, on May 29, 2020, the police officer who had his knee held down on Mr. Floyd’s neck area for over five minutes was subsequently charged with 3rd degree murder as well as manslaughter. However, the three other police officers who were standing there and witnessed this incident was also fired but have yet to be charged with a crime. One could hypothesize that the three police officers who failed to intervene during this incident will be charged soon as well.
Further, it is important to note as seen from the video footage, that it appears that the police officer had his knee placed in the proximity of Mr. Floyd’s carotid artery. The function of the coronary arteries is to provide blood to the heart muscle (John Hopkins University, 2020). It is also important to note that the two main coronary arteries are located on the right and left side of an individual (John Hopkins University, 2020). It is anticipated that the appropriate medical authorities will eventually determine the cause of death of Mr. Floyd.
So, one may inquire was this officer trained to commit such techniques against Mr. Floyd? Police officers are trained in various defensive tactic techniques not limited but to include escort hold techniques, takedown techniques, arm lock to wrist lock, and hand to hand fighting techniques. The use of force continuum that most law enforcement personnel adheres to are officer presence, verbal commands, soft techniques, hard techniques, less lethal methods, and if necessary, deadly force (National Institute of Justice, 2009). Thus, in this case as exhibited on video footage, Mr. Floyd was in handcuffs, lying on the ground, therefore was any other type of force applicable or necessary?
Since the death of Mr. Floyd there were protests and riots throughout the country. Some of the major cities that have experienced protests and riots include Columbus, Ohio; Brooklyn, New York; Louisville, Kentucky; Washington, DC; Atlanta, Georgia; Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. These riots have resulted in a myriad of injuries, arrests, and destruction of properties. In Minneapolis, there were multiple fires, as well as a police precinct set on fire and destroyed. The police officers at that precinct were ordered to leave and not to confront the individuals who damaged and destroying the precinct.
Consequently, it important to examine this incident from a criminal justice and policing perspective. Kelling (2019) indicated that crime has decreased drastically over the years in the United States. Thus, one may inquire why is there such an uproar as it relates to African American males and the criminal justice system. Was the incident with Mr. George Floyd due to a lack of training or systemic racism? Moreover, could this incident occurred due to a lack of trust between the police and the African American community? If trust is an issue, this could be enhanced in a community with the implementation of community policing. However, community policing is portrayed as a strategy that is not considered a tough on crime approach (Kelling, 2019). Thus, envisage in this case, if there were an enhanced level of community policing prior to the death of Mr. George Floyd. Could community policing prevented the incident?
It should be stated that the benefit of community policing is that it assists in transparency and allows the community to have a relationship with the police. One may state that if effective community policing strategies had been initiated in the city of Minneapolis, the death of Mr. George Floyd may not have occurred. Thus, the overall effectiveness of community policing is working with citizens that police officers serves. Kelling (2019) indicated that effective community policing must be established for this model of community policing to work. Moreover, understanding the relationship that exists between African American communities and the police is necessary. Therefore, effective community policing will assist with this predicament. Police officers should interact with the citizens in the community on a regular basis. Having police officers on foot or bicycle patrol to interact with people in the community in a non-confrontational manner is relevant.
Public administrators and law enforcement must first prevent the unsafe riots that are ongoing in the United States. These riots are causing a public safety predicament. If these dangerous riots are not ceased immediately, there will be additional deaths, injuries, and tremendous damage to property. The Governor of Minnesota has since issued a state of emergency. Enhanced security measures should be implemented to include a curfew, initiating the National Guard, an increase in technology surveillance, and applicable deterrent measures. Community leaders should also be stakeholders in restoring safety within their communities. Moreover, after the riots have ended and public safety is restored, then such measures to facilitate trust with police and the African American community could be examined. An independent review should be conducted on policing in America.
It is important to note that this case is ongoing, and a continuous review and analysis of this case may be warranted.
John Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Anatomy and function of the coronary arteries. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/anatomy-and-function-of-the-coronary-arteries
Kelling, G. (2019). Community policing, rightly understood. Retrieved from https://www.city-journal.org/community-policing
National Institute of Justice. (2009). The use-of-force continuum. Retrieved from https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/use-force-continuum
Dr. Joseph Moore is a Full-Time Faculty member with CSU in the programs of Criminal Justice/Homeland Security.
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