I was in law enforcement for 42 years full time, the first 27 years as a Maryland State Trooper. Half of those years were in training. When I first saw the news reports and the film of the death of George Floyd I was shocked and saddened. Shocked because of how the officers behaved. Anyone placed face down and handcuffed behind their back can die from suffocation. This is “positional asphyxia” and is taught nationwide in the criminal justice community. When I later found out that the officers kept Mr. Floyd in this position for almost nine minutes, almost three of which he had no pulse, my only thought was the death was intentional.
To me this incident was obviously blatant and recognizable as an intentionally homicide. The grief was like the act itself, beyond our normal comprehension. I understand that bigotry exists in many police departments, but this was suffering that included torturing an individual until he died! The only way to describe it is pure hate.
With the death of Mr. Floyd, the chief of police did the right thing and fired all four officers. However, none of the officers were immediately charged with any crimes. If four men held a police officer down until he died, they would all be immediately charged. Finally, one officer was charged and then later all four faced criminal charges.
As horrific and depraved as Mr. Floyds death was, I have optimism that changes will occur. Citizens have been demonstrating, as they should. The demonstrations have evolved and are worldwide. The number of demonstrations and the diversity of those demonstrating is cause for hope. We have witnessed police officers and police chiefs participating in this process by standing and kneeling with the protesters.
Changes in the criminal justice system, including police behavior have been a continuing issue for a long time. The demonstrations and suggested changes, like abolishing choke holds are front page news. However, any suggested changes will not change anything unless the individuals responsible for depraved behavior are held accountable. When persons are accountable for their actions, then change will occur.
In the middle of a pandemic we are witnessing protest around the world because of the death of Mr. Floyd. Equality is more important to those protesting than the possibility of contracting a deadly virus. That is the world moving in the right direction.
“We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” — Will Rogers