In July 2017, President Donald J. Trump, as the nation’s “chief law enforcement officer” as he likes to call himself, implored police across the country not to be “too nice” when making an arrest. The President was speaking to a crowd of approving law enforcement officers in Long Island, New York encouraging the officers to use physical abuse when making an arrest, saying:
“… you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don’t be too nice. When you guys put somebody in the [police] car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the [protecting] hand away, okay?”
President Encouraged Police Violence
The President of the United States let every police officer in America know, just seven months into his administration, that he approves of police brutality during police arrests. The predominantly audience of white police officers agreed of the President’s deplorable comments with a loud round of applause.
And that is precisely why Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed on the neck of a handcuffed suspect named George Floyd as he begged the officer with cries of “I can’t breathe” for nine minutes before he died. Three other Minneapolis police officers—Tau Thao, Thomas Lane, and Alexander Kueng—callously stood by watching Chauvin brutally suffocate the life out of a suspect who posed no threat to any of the officers.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the man charged in the police homicide of George Floyd, is white. Floyd is Black. It was Chauvin’s second involvement in a police homicide and Tau Thao’s second involvement in an “unreasonable use of force” incident.
That this latest police homicide involved a white police officer killing an unarmed black man, while his police brethren stood by and watched, is not surprising. It is a shameful and all too common occurrence that has been covered up by authorities across the country and applauded by tough on crime elected officials. After all, Trump was speaking to mostly white police officers in 2017 when he instructed them to abuse black and Hispanic men when making arrests.
The trend of fatal police shootings, especially among unarmed African American men, is increasing in this country. As of March 30, 2020, there were 228 fatal shootings of civilians by police across the country. There were 1,100 such fatal police shootings in 2017, 996 in 2017, and 1004 in 2019. Blacks are disproportionately shot and killed by police officers compared to other racial demographics.
Black Men Twice as Likely to be Killed by Police as White Men
In one day last year, August 6, 2019, police shot and killed a school teacher, a 15-year-old kid, and a 39-year-old man, none of whom posed a real threat to the officers. That is a typical day in the Trump era of policing—three people killed on average each day by the police in this country, according to a September 2019 report in Scientific American. The report also revealed that African American men are twice as likely to be killed by the police as white men.
Since Trump became President, more than 3,300 people have been shot and killed by the police in this country. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fryer has called for the arrest of the four officers involved in the George Floyd homicide. Only one, Derek Chauvin has yet to be charged.
Odds Against Justice for George Floyd and Victims of Police Killings
Statistically, even if charged with murder or manslaughter, the odds are against a criminal conviction against Chauvin and his cohorts. One study by Philip Stinson, as associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, shows that between 2005 and 2017, police killed more than 10,000 people. Only 80 officers were arrested, and just 35 percent of those were convicted.
Between January 1, 2000, and May 4, 2020, there were 193 fatal shootings by Minneapolis police—49 (or 25%) of whom were black. African-Americans comprise less than 20 percent of the Minneapolis population. The overwhelming majority of those fatal shootings were done by white police officers—less than 10 percent of the 800-plus officers in the Minneapolis Police Department are African American. Data from the Minneapolis Police Department itself reveals that the department has a long history of racially profiling African American citizens and other people of color, such as Latinos and Native Americans.
President Fuels Fire of Hate and Police Misconduct
A “Trump Hate Map” put together by America’s Voice showed “documented instances where President-elect Donald Trump, his supporters, or his staff have harassed or attack Latinos, immigrants, Muslim-American, African-Americans, and other minority and marginalized groups.” Trump has continued to stoke the flames of racism throughout his tenure as President with direct broadside attacks on every racial and ethnic group in this country.
The President’s lawless, racist behavior and example contributed to validating the behavior that led Officer Derek Chauvin to believe he was engaging in good, Trump policing. President Trump and his ilk, who use hate-mongering, bigotry, and race-baiting for political gain, are as responsible for George Floyd’s intentional homicide as those three white police officers who stood around watching Derek Chauvin suffocate the life out of Floyd.
But, by deny denying racism in modern day America, we have all contributed to the violence that plagues our Country. America has never come to terms with its history of slavery, Jim Crow and perpetual violence that continues to be perpetrated against the Black community. It is this unresolved and unrepentant history of violence against people of color, especially Black Americans, that is responsible for the deaths of countless black men at the hands of police.
We are all complicit in the death of George Floyd.