The idea of an official enforcing and overseeing justice is prevalent and an integral part of a stable civilization since Ancient Egypt. As humanity drives itself forward, the more crucial it was for someone to be in charge of protecting citizens and persecuting criminal acts. Communities began to grow in size and the world brought more focus to material things. This led to more serious criminal activities which required police officers to carry weapons and train in self-defense. However, some individuals abuse the authority given to them and use it to take advantage of others. This expository essay will bring light to the alarming case of police brutality George Floyd experienced and other unjustly treated civilians.
Police officials have been around for centuries tasked with upholding law and order. Ensuring the safety of those within their jurisdiction. They are supposed to be a symbol of security and discipline. However, more and more news of police officials abusing their power is being reported all around the globe. News of corrupt cops taking bribes from large criminal organizations and police brutality such as physical and sexual harassment involving officers have become common. Once the hallmark of safety, the police now elicit anxiety and restlessness from the people they swore to protect.
The George Floyd Murder Case
One of the most recent headlines involving police brutality is the George Floyd Murder Case. George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man arrested by Minneapolis officers on May 25, 2020, for allegedly using a fake $20 bill. Footage from a nearby surveillance camera, showed the police officer arresting George Floyd and dragging him to their police vehicles. Videos from passersby and police body cameras showed a distressed George Floyd pleading to the officers and claiming he was claustrophobic. A struggle ensued when the police officers were trying to put George Floyd in one of their vehicles.
A video taken by a bystander showed the disturbing scene of the final moments of George Floyd. A police officer named Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck while he was lying on the ground. It can be seen in the video that the other police officers remained in their place as they watched Chauvin kneeling on George. The official statement says that Chauvin had his knees on George's neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds with 2 minutes and 53 seconds of this was after George Floyd became unresponsive. (State of Minnesota County of Hennepin, 2020) Showing the severe lack of respect the police officers have for human rights.
Disregard for Human Rights
The use of force is sometimes necessary for police officers to perform and complete their duties. Police officers tackle all kinds of disputes ranging from petty theft to more violent crimes such as homicides. They are trained and authorized to use force to a certain extent to fulfill their duties. There will be cases where they are compelled to use deadly force for self-defense, overcome resistance to an arrest, or stop a fleeing criminal. (Mullally, 1969) As for the George Floyd Murder Case, it was clearly an unlawful act that resulted in a criminal case against the officers.
George Floyd's rights were disregarded as the Minneapolis police officers arrested him. He was pinned to the ground and placed in an extremely uncomfortable position which inevitably caused his death. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that no one shall be subjected to torture. (Sharma, 2019) Derek Chauvin showed a great disregard for human rights when he kneeled on George Floyd's neck and refused to acknowledge that the suspect is unable to breathe. Bystanders were even telling the police that George Floyd was unresponsive and may need medical assistance. The officers ignored the bystanders and Chauvin continued kneeling on George Floyd. This show of negligence towards human rights and human life resulted in the death of George Floyd.
George Floyd's Cause of Death
The 46-year-old George Floyd died due to a combination of causes. These include: "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression and that his system showed fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use." (Deliso, 2021) This initial report suggests that George Floyd might have been under the influence of drugs during the arrest. The drugs added with the underlying health issues may have a large part in his death.
The fact that George Floyd pleaded with the officers and told them that he can't breathe was an indication that he was having difficulty breathing. An independent autopsy revealed that George Floyd's death was caused by asphyxia. The result of police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knees on the neck of the victim. Although the initial autopsy suggested that underlying medical conditions and drug use may have affected his death, it was the lack of oxygen and blood flow that led to George Floyd's untimely death.
Other Cases of Police Brutality
George Floyd's murder is not the first and there is a possibility that it will not be the last case that involves police brutality. His last words "I can't breath" were not only uttered by George Floyd. From the different states of the US to the city of Paris, these words have been cried by other victims. These words have also been used as a rallying cry of those who are seeking justice for police brutality victims. This raises alarming questions: How are the police taught to treat suspects? Do the requirements of becoming a police officer need to be looked at and changed.
George Floyd is one of the many victims of police brutality. A lot of media attention covered the George Floyd's case due to the effects it had on the people. It has united everyone to fight police brutality and racial discrimination. There are other cases that similar to George Floyd's. Here are some of the other police brutality victims that were also killed during their arrests:
Eric Garner is a 43-year-old black man apprehended for selling untaxed cigarettes, Garner resisted the arrest, saying he was tired of police harassment. His resistance led one undercover officer named Daniel Pantaleo to come up behind Garner and place him in a chokehold that the New York Police Department has banned. Daniel Pantaleo and the other officers were able to put Garner to the ground. Garner told them multiple times that he can't breathe while Daniel Pantaleo still has him in a chokehold. They took Garner to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
An officer investigating a shoplifting complaint shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man. According to Wilson, the officer, Michael approached his vehicle and they struggled over his gun. Michael then attempted to run away but he suddenly turned around with an intense aggressive face and charged at the officer. Wilson fired his weapon multiple times when he noticed Michael reaching something in his waistband. Michael Brown's friend Dorian Johnson reported that Michael had his hands up and told Wilson not to shoot.
Tamir was a 12-year-old kid playing with a toy airsoft gun in Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland. 911 dispatchers alerted police officers that a male was in the park pointing a gun at passersby. The dispatchers also told the officers that the gun might have been a fake. Two officers found the boy playing in a gazebo with what they thought was a real gun. One of the officers fired his weapon twice and hitting the boy with a bullet. Taric was taken to a hospital but eventually died.
Adama Traore's untimely passing like Floyd's became a rallying point against police brutality. On his 24th birthday, Adama was taken into police custody for fleeing an identity check. Upon reaching the police station, Adama Traore was unconscious and has urinated on himself. Later, a medical team declared him dead at the scene. Like George Floyd, his last words were "I can't breath". (John et al., 2020) Assa Traore, Adama's sister, stated that George and Adama died the exact same way and had the same last words.
There are more cases like the ones stated above but all of them have a similarity. It is not the country where they live, not their age, but the color of their skin. It would seem that these gruesome police brutalities are happening to a specific race. All of the names stated were black people ranging from a 12-year-old kid to a 46-year-old guy. Police brutality seems to correlate with racism.
Racism and Police Brutality
Slavery and racial segregation have been abolished many years ago. Today we are living in a society where it does not matter whether your skin color is dark or light, whether you identify as a man, a woman, or something different. Racism is a thing of the past and it should remain so. However, modern accounts of racism still linger today. This is the case with the George Floyd murder case and other police brutality cases. It would seem despite the past presidents’ and idealists’ efforts, remnants of these horrible acts from the past still linger today.
When looking at statistics, the rate of fatal police shootings among black African Americans is much higher than any ethnicity. A harrowing fact that suggests black people are more likely to be at the receiving end of fatal police brutality. The distress that George Floyd, Eric Garner, Adama Traore, and others seem to be justified by statistics.
George Floyd's Murder Case is just one of the many indications that police brutality and racism is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The growing number of black people fatality from police shootings should be looked upon and dealt with. The police officers who patrol the streets and apprehend criminals should do so without prejudice or bigotry. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin, should have the right to due process. The rights of everyone should be respected no matter their race. The so-called officers should be educated to treat everyone, even their suspects, fairly. George Floyd's murder should be taken as a call to action to fight and abolish modern racism and police brutality.
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State of Minnesota County of Hennepin. District Court 4th Judicial District. (2020, May 29). 27 CR 20 12646 Complaint. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6933328-27-CR-20-12646-Complaint.html#document/p2
Mullally, J. (1969, January 1). The Problem of Police Brutality. Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2491&context=lawreview
Sharma, R. (2019, December 27). Who is police? What are powers & duties of police?. Law Times Journal. https://lawtimesjournal.in/who-is-police-what-are-powers-duties-of-police/
Deliso, M. (2021, April 22). Timeline: The impact of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis and beyond. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/timeline-impact-george-floyds-death-minneapolis/story?id=70999322
Hutchinson, B. (2020, June 6) From Eric Garner to George Floyd, 12 black lives lost in police encounters that stoked mass protests. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/eric-garner-george-floyd-12-black-lives-lost/story?id=70999321
John, T., Bell, M., Wojazer, B., (2020, June 5) "They died in the exact same way" George Floyd's killing puts spotlight on similar cases around the world. CNN World. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/04/world/adama-traore-david-dungay-george-floyd-protests-gbr-intl/index.html
Statista, (2021, April). Number of people shot to death by the police in the United States from 2017 to 2021, by race. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/