Reading opinion pieces about the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police I got the feeling that many writers believe the actions of former officer Derek Chauvin were representative of the police in general. As a retired police officer, it’s important for me to say, without equivocation, that Chauvin doesn’t represent me or any cops I know. His reprehensible actions certainly do not represent the Minneapolis police either.

The tactic he used to “restrain” Floyd was not only unnecessary, since Floyd was already in handcuffs, but it also is not a departmentally approved tactic. If he had been alone fighting for his life with a resisting suspect then all bets would be off and such a tactic might have been necessary. But such was not the case.

In video made public at this point, Floyd is never seen resisting. I don’t know why he was forced to the ground in the first place much less knelt upon. Once handcuffed, he should have been placed in a squad car. That three other cops stood by and allowed this to continue for eight minutes while Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe is baffling.

Though police officers are typically deferential to the most senior officer on a crime scene they are not expected to be sycophants. The other officers present should have told Chauvin in no uncertain terms to get off Floyd, and if he refused they should have removed him. The failure of these officers to act was reprehensible — but they, too, are anything but typical.

For protesters to be throwing all police under the banner of brutal racist is like someone calling all the protesters looters and arsonists. The peaceful protesters who simply want justice are of course underrepresented in media coverage that favors burning buildings and broken windows.

The protesters burning buildings, looting stores and throwing bricks are not representative of the black community or the protesting population any more than Chauvin is representative of police officers.

The tendency to stereotype both police officers as racists and the black protesters as criminals just tends to strengthen the old worn out stereotypes of the past.

I believe most protesters and most Minnesotans are interested in justice for Floyd; he deserves nothing less. But the violence against police, the damage to property and the looting do nothing to ensure it.

 

Richard Greelis, of Bloomington, is an author and retired police detective and teacher.