(Aug. 4) The Daily Mail’s release of the police bodycam footage of George Floyd’s arrest and death confirms everything we already knew. But it also should help us refocus on practical solutions rather than aimless, anarchic riots over police misconduct.

What we already knew is that there is no reasonable excuse for the way officers manhandled Floyd before his death in custody. The man was accused of nothing more serious than passing a funny bill in a convenience store. He never made aggressive moves against the police. His hands were cuffed behind his back. He was begging for mercy. He repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and that he wanted to cooperate, but he was “claustrophobic” and scared for his life.

At worst, in sum, he was a recalcitrant arrestee — one who, while not complying with the police, also was no way a threat against them.

Yet, one officer knelt on his neck while two others knelt on his legs and another threatened witnesses, all while ignoring dozens of pleas from Floyd and witnesses to spare Floyd’s life. Not one single thing in the videos exonerates the officers’ conduct.

Still, the answer to such horrid police behavior lies in reform, not revolution. Again and again in the video, we see these officers overreact to Floyd’s confusion and fear. Their only responses to his fright, even after he was cuffed, were to amp up verbal scolding and physical force. Not once did they attempt to calmly de-escalate the situation, show empathy, or give this cuffed and non-threatening man the emotional space to relax.

This is less a problem of racism (although perhaps racial stereotypes played into the officers’ overreaction) than it is of bad training and personal character….

The constructive responses to this are all generally agreed upon. Universal training against implicit racial bias. Better training in recognizing when a suspect is non-threatening and in de-escalating situations involving unarmed subjects. More, not less, police presence, as friendly allies in crime-threatened neighborhoods….

[The full column is here.]


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