It was the spark that began the revolution.
For decades, black Americans have been saying they are routinely mistreated by officers – often white officers – but nothing seemed to change.
What had created almost universal agreement is that what happened to George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police was not just wrong but criminal.
“That officer – nor any of the other officers, there – were under any imminent threat or jeopardy, so use of deadly force was null and void,” said Jim Gunn, who not only served as a police officer in Greensboro but trained Greensboro police officers from 1987 until 2011 and has taught a basic law enforcement course at Rockingham Community College since.
The comedian Chris Rock, several years before George Floyd’s death, remarked that the police is one profession in which we can’t afford to have any, “bad apples.” But Wake Forest University law professor Kami Chavis says the issue is deeper than a few bad officers.
“It’s easy, really, to point to the actions of one person,” Chavis said. “But what I always have said is these officers are operating within a larger context, within a culture. They’re operating within a culture of a profession and the department in which they work.”
Some communities – Minneapolis being one – have moved to “defund the police.” Although it’s not clear what is meant by that, it’s not something that Chavis – a former prosecutor herself and a nationally-recognized expert in police and prosecutorial accountability – isn’t advocating right now.
“I don’t want to defund the police – we need them for violent offenses,” Chavis said. “I would want to see reallocation of resources to create police/community partnerships. I also think that many of the small violations for which we currently ask police to intervene and the authority we give them to intervene should be curtailed.”
So, fewer interactions – most of which, Chavis believes police are not necessary – prevents not just escalations of situations but accidents or misunderstandings that can turn bad – even deadly.
Although George Floyd was not killed with a gun, many of the high-profile incidents in which black civilians have been killed do involve them. That’s why Jim Gunn has always taught recruits the potential danger of every incident.
“The one thing that we do tell them: every incident that you go on to has the potential to be an armed confrontation. And, why is that? Because that officer is carrying a gun … and they have to be mindful of that,” Gunn said.
See what each says is key to improving our policing issues in this edition of the Buckley Report.