Stern warning given to city police officers, after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
George Floyd, the African American man who resided in Minneapolis and was known to many as a “gentle giant,” went from vivacious to lifeless, all at the hands of a White Minneapolis police officer who’s now been charged with murder.
Pittsburgh’s police chief, Scott E. Schubert, was so perturbed by what he, along with the rest of the world, saw (video of the May 25 encounter), that he addressed his entire police force in a May 29 letter, effectively telling them to never act anywhere close to the manner that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin did.
“Regardless of the original crime or what occurred prior to the arrest, a person in handcuffs and face-down on the ground should not lose their life due to the action or inaction of the involved officers,” Chief Schubert’s letter read, released to the media. “I simply cannot comprehend the actions of the officers or their lack of moral courage and duty to intervene and stop the action before it was too late.”
Chief Schubert then added: “As police officers, we have a fundamental duty to care for and safeguard everyone and anyone in our custody…there was no consideration for the value of human life and that is inexcusable.”
The chief said further that “I know firsthand the high level of professionalism, bravery, courage and compassion our officers display on a daily basis. We have sworn an oath and I trust that all of us will use our moral courage to intervene when we see something wrong. We owe it to each other, we owe it to our noble profession and we owe it to the community we protect and serve.”
Chief Schubert was referring to the other Minneapolis police officers on-scene who did not intervene and stop fellow officer Chauvin from continuing his knee-on-neck maneuver on Floyd.
Chief Schubert then said that he asked the Police Academy to “review this senseless death and share additional information that can help reinforce our training and policies. Excessive force is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at any level.”
Later in the day on May 29, members of the Black Political Empowerment Project made their own public statement, as they, too, were disturbed at the video of the Chauvin/Floyd encounter.
“No individual in this country should be treated the way George Floyd was treated by the officer who had his foot on his neck, while witnesses called upon the officers to stop,” Tim Stevens, the organization’s chairman and CEO, said. “I’m hoping that the words our Pittsburgh Chief, Scott Schubert, shared, will be taken to heart by every police officer in the city, and I’m hopeful that every police chief will echo similar words to their officers.”
Stevens commended Chief Schubert for his statements, along with the chief’s advocation of the “You And The Police” brochure promoted by Stevens and his team. The brochure gives the public, as well as police officers, specific details on each other’s rights and responsibilities if in a situation where a person is stopped by the police.
Chief Schubert pushed for city officers to read the brochure, and even had them take a quiz on the brochure’s contents.
“I ask people who are White, to think about this: if they’re in a sensitive moment with the police and police officers who do not seem to care about humanity…what do you think might be better for you to be, White or Black? And anybody White who’s listening to this knows the answer,” Stevens said.
Beth Pittinger, with the Citizen Police Review Board, said during the May 29 press conference that “we all witnessed a live murder with someone who has been entrusted with our well-being.”
She added: “The fact that it happens so frequently, to people of brown to Black skin, is a clear message; it’s time for all of us to rehumanize humanity and for White people to stand up…stand up and be anti-racist, stand up and pay attention that people who are around you who make up our community at-large, who don’t all look like us, but have the same hopes and dreams and aspirations.”
In recent months, police brutality against African Americans has again come to light. In Louisville, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, was shot multiple times in March by undercover police detectives as they stormed into Taylor’s residence. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, believed intruders were breaking into the apartment and fired his weapon. The officers returned fire, striking Taylor eight times, killing her.
The Louisville Police Department was looking for a suspect and drugs at the residence—they found neither.
In Georgia, a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis, tried to apprehend a Black man whom they thought was responsible for recent break-ins in the neighborhood. As the Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, tussled with Travis McMichael over a shotgun, three gunshots went off from the shotgun, killing Arbery.
Both McMichaels, who are White, along with a third man, William Bryan, who recorded the encounter, were charged with felony murder in May, three months after the February 23 incident.
Last week, parts of Minneapolis were burned to the ground, including the police station where Chauvin formerly worked. Protesters were fed up at the distasteful video, fed up that a Black man is no longer living, when, by all accounts, it could have all been avoided, and Floyd, who was 46, would be alive today.
Protests also took place in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, etc.
The outrage over Floyd’s death won’t soon fade.
Remarkably, though not necessarily a shock, it took days after the encounter and Floyd’s death for Chauvin to be charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter by the county’s district attorney. Chauvin and the other officers involved were fired the day after the May 25 incident, but charges were not brought against Chauvin until May 29.
Chauvin, who is 44, apparently will be fighting his charges alone—his wife, Kellie Chauvin, has filed for divorce.
Chauvin had 18 complaints filed against him, according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs division. Only two of the 18 complaints were “closed with discipline.” In each case, the “discipline issued” column showed that a reprimand in the form of a letter was issued to Chauvin.
Valerie Dixon, the vice chair of B-PEP, said during the May 29 press conference in the Hill District that when a White officer kills an unarmed Black person, “our young people see a devalue in their human Black lives. So they devalue each other out here. For generations they continuously see that we’re the low man on the totem pole, then it’s nothing for us to kill each other. But when we see somebody that’s supposed to protect us, kill us, too, where do we go? Who do we go to?”
VALERIE DIXON, vice chair of the Black Political Empowerment Project, addresses the media at a press conference on Wylie Avenue, May 29. Tim Stevens, B-PEP’s chairman and CEO, looks on. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)