George Floyd is the most famous victim of police violence in the United States. Bystanders took and shared video footage of a group of officers who stood above George Floyd as one police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s throat for eight minutes and 46 seconds until he died of asphyxiation. His killing motivated people around the world to take a stand against police violence and it helped to shed a light on other past and present victims around the nation.
Minnesota is no different than other states in that it had a big problem with police brutality before George Floyd was killed. The difference this time was that bystanders were there, using cell phones to record video of the incident and begging the police to stop. It was essentially a public execution on a Minneapolis street for the world to see on the news.
Harbinger of Police Violence
George Floyd was not the first Black person wrongly killed by police in Minnesota. In 2016, according to The New Yorker, Minnesota governor, Mark Dayton, publicly commented that a black man killed by a Saint Paul police officer during a routine traffic stop would still be alive if he had been white. With the governor’s admission, it seemed like police reform might happen. But the state’s legislative support waned with the 2016 election of a new president. In fact, after the presidential election, Minnesota police forces became increasingly violent with peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. And then the world saw an undeniable example of their brutality in the killing of Floyd.
Police Bias, No Training, and No Accountability
In the five years leading to Floyd’s killing, Minneapolis police department reports show that officers used violence against black people about seven times more often than they did against white people. Clearly, race-based bias is one of the problems that lead to Minnesota’s problem with police violence. Another problem is the training police officers receive and the policies and procedures they follow. For example, they used a restraint technique called “body-weight pinning” on George Floyd before asphyxiating him. In the five years before Floyd was killed, this technique was used approximately 2,200 times against black people and less than half as often against white people. We can point to bias, policies, procedures, and training as problems, but ultimately it is up to the state leaders to pressure state, county, and city police forces to change.
What to Do If You Are a Victim
While we wait for change many observers claim that “bad cops” are continuing to target people of color and to use excessive, unnecessary, and sometimes lethal force when interacting with them. These individuals argue that new victims will be created every day until police reform happens.
If you have been injured or worse by police officers, you are one of those victims, and you deserve justice. Accusing these police officers is the first step. You need to understand your right to nonviolent treatment from the police, and you need a lawyer.