Watching the video of the African American suspect George Floyd being choked to death by a policeman in Minneapolis was agonizing. Floyd repeatedly said he was choking and the officer continued kneeling on his neck. This type of killing must stop and corrected police practices must follow. There is a tendency to see these deaths as a “black issue”, but this is an issue and injustice for all Americans. The police act as public servants, keeping the peace and minding the safety of our communities. The police are acting on all of our names, no matter our racial, religious or political background. Clearly, police do a dangerous job with courage every day – but the bad apples must go.
I encourage all people to try and put yourself in the heart and mind of an African American man in this country. When I was raising my young children, I would tell them that the police are our friends and that they are there to protect us. Given the incidents that have occurred with African American men and youth – what painful advice must their parents be compelled to give them. As a Caucasian man, I walk the streets with confidence and know that the worst thing that will happen if I’m stopped by police is that I could get a traffic ticket. What fears and anxieties must go through the minds of African American males when they step outdoors? Those African American men are my brothers, we are part of the same society. What is done to them is done to all of us.
Think of what the penalty would have been, even if Floyd had pled or been convicted of passing a counterfeit bill. The penalty might have been probation. What he got was the death penalty. When a police officer uses deadly force in any situation that is not absolutely necessary, it is a miscarriage of justice. Certainly, police have the right to use deadly force to protect themselves and others but only in extreme cases.
In Floyd’s case, the Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo acted quickly to fire the four officers involved. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the mayor of Minneapolis and the state attorney general all called for the officer to be charged. The swift action among officials, could be attributed to the viral video that speaks for itself. These actions may have taken place without the video but there is no way to know that at this point. But, what about cases that occur when only the suspect/victim and police are there and there is no video evidence. The universal use of body and car cams ought to bring better scrutiny.
The legal system must be given a chance to work with the officer’s right to defend himself in court. Ultimately, it is the training instituted to the police force that needs to be addressed. The use of firearms should be an absolute last resort, and even fleeing suspects don’t merit a death penalty. There are plenty of training methods that practice restraint and safety that don’t involve death.
It is well past time to stop viewing any form of prejudicial or differential treatment of our African American brothers as their issue – it is our collective issue. When injustice is meted out in our community, it is meted out to me. Just as domestic violence is not uniquely a women’s issue, racial disparity in our country’s law enforcement system is not a minority issue. It is time to make your voice heard.