A 46-year old black man named George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25, 2020. A police officer named Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck, after vaguely accusing him of forgery and/or public intoxication. He pressed his knee down so hard — and kept it there — that it cut off the air to Floyd's lungs, suffocating him. Three police officers stood around and watched as Floyd used his last breaths to cry for help; several bystanders filmed the scene, and tried to get the cops to stop, but to no avail.
Those 4 police officers were fired shortly after the video was released (by their official account, Floyd had been "resisting arrest," something which is a physically impossible to do while also dying under restraint). That sounds like good news on the surface — but thanks to Police Union rules, bad cops who get fired for misconduct usually just get re-hired in a nearby precinct. Their past behavior — even repeated, established patterns of violent misconduct — are left off their permanent record, or otherwise ignored.
And that's exactly how the police officer who killed George Floyd was in the position to do so in the first place. As Insider reports, Derek Chauvin had a long and ugly history of police brutality, long before he killed George Floyd:
[Chauvin] was involved in violent incidents before, including three police shootings. And he has been the subject of 10 complaints filed to the city's Civilian Review Authority and the Office of Police Conduct.
In three separate reviews from the Civilian Review Authority, he was found to have used "demeaning tone," "derogatory language," and "language – other." No other details were available.
He has also been the subject of seven reviews by the local Office of Police Conduct. Each review concludes: "Closed – No discipline." No other details were available.
To be precise, Chauvin did not pull the fatal trigger in all of those instances, and was sometimes adjacent to or otherwise involved with a larger situation. In at least one of those cases, in 2011, Chauvin was one of the officers to insist that the victim was carrying a gun in order to justify the shooting, despite eyewitness evidence to the contrary.
Another case was overseen by current Democratic VP Hopeful Amy Klobuchar, who was then serving as chief prosecutor for the county and declined to bring charges in more than two dozen cases of police killing civilians.
Officer Tou Thao, who stood by and kept guard as Chauvin killed George Floyd, also has a history of violence, include a lawsuit against him for excessive violence that he settled out of court for $25,000.
So while it's good news that Thao and Chauvin have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, it doesn't actually mean anything, unless you are charged and tried fairly in a court of law that does not protect them based on their status as police officers. Otherwise, they're just going to get re-hired somewhere else, and continue terrorizing communities with excessively violent policing, just as they've done in the past.
What we know about Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, two of the officers caught on tape in the death of George Floyd [Andy Mannix / Star Tribune]
Image: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr (CC 2.0)