Three former officers from the Minneapolis Police Department were found guilty on February 24 as they were found to have deprived George Floyd of his civil rights. According to the federal jury of 4 men and 8 women, the ex-cops disregarded their basic training when they chose not to provide medical care when a colleague’s knee was placed on the neck of George Floyd, who was initially arrested under suspicion of using a fake 20 dollar bill. The former policemen were said to be showing deliberate indifference to Floyd’s medical needs during that time.
The jury also discovered the actions of the three ex-cops, Tou Thao, 36; J. Alexander Kueng, 28; and Thomas Lane, 38, caused Floyd’s untimely demise in the arrest made on May 25, 2020. This finding can alter the magnitude of their sentence.
Kueng and Thao were also convicted under charges of violating Floyd’s rights against the use of excessive force in an arrest when they failed to stop Derek Chauvin, the senior officer on-site, during the 9 minutes he was kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Chauvin, 45, was convicted for Floyd’s murder last year in a separate trial and was sentenced to over 22 years behind bars. It can be recalled that Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter last 2021.
“This is just accountability,” said Philonise Floyd to the reporters after the verdict. “It could never be justice because I can never get my brother back,” she said.
The three remain free on bail as they await their sentencing hearing which is yet to have a date. Prosecutors have not yet disclosed the requested sentence, but it is safe to say that the men might face many years in prison.
“That’s historic for our country because oftentimes officers kill Black and brown men and women, and we get little to no consequences. A lot of times, we don’t even get charges, let alone convictions,” said George Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams.
In 2019, USA Today reported that in the previous decade some 85,000 police officers were charged with a variety of offenses for crimes committed both on and off duty including, assault and battery on members of the public, planting evidence, using their badges to harass women, perjury, theft, drug dealing, drunk driving, and spousal abuse.
Caught on a Viral Video
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges that they consciously deprived Floyd of medical aid in police custody, a constitutional right in itself. They acknowledged their duty to handle people in their custody with care but claimed that they did not realize Floyd’s imminent need for medical assistance of the excessive use of force from Chauvin.
However, a famous cell phone video (If you want to see the clip, you can watch this video from The New York Times) that captured the scene showed Thao standing a few feet from Floyd, snubbing the plea of the witnesses on-site to stop Chauvin. Kueng and Lane were pinning down Floyd’s legs and backside. The defendants in their testimonies deferred to Chauvin, who has the most senior officer on site. The rookies, Kueng and Lane, noted that they were just a few days fresh from training while Thao had been in police service for over eight years.
Prosecutors repeatedly showed the mentioned video where Floyd’s struggle was visible to bystanders, including a firefighter who was off duty that cried out that Floyd was passing out and asked the officers to check for his pulse. Testimonies from medical experts say that Floyd would have most likely survived if they had set him on his side, a protocol the convicted officers agreed they had been taught.
Sparking Protests and Riots
A Black Lives Matter protest happening in Washington, D.C. (Martin H. Simon/Redux via The Atlantic)The death of the African American sparked massive outcry worldwide in 2020, with millions condemning the acts of racism and police brutality through the Black Lives Matter Movement. A few days after his death, protests and violent riots swept across cities in the United States, tallying at around 140 cities and 21 states. Thousands of people in major cities in Europe and Latin America also joined the protests. At least 19 deaths can be directly attributed to these riots.
Such events led to the creation of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which forwarded a long list of legislative measures on the federal level pertaining to accountability and policing in the police force. It aimed to increase officer accountability for misconducts, restrict the use of certain police measures such as chokeholds, improve transparency, and establish the best practices and training.
The bill builds upon live police force instruments to combat law enforcement violations, namely, lowering the standard of criminal intention ranging from willful to knowing or reckless; curtailing the ability of “qualified immunity” to defend against civil action towards a police officer, and granting subpoena powers to the Department of Justice during pattern-or-practice investigations.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the George Floyd Act. However, it is currently stuck in the Senate, where Democrats have only the barest of majority needed for final passage.