Observations About the Derek Chauvin/George Floyd Saga

So many things would have changed last year if a well-trained and honorable police officer had been on scene to arrest George Floyd.

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Last month fired Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges he faced in the death of George Floyd—second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Each count carries a different maximum sentence: 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

Jury deliberations were lightning-quick—a sum total of 10 hours—with no requests for notes or clarifications from the court.

As the trial came to an end, retail stores and restaurants in downtown Minneapolis had girded for the worst—a continuation of the violence, vandalism, and arson that gripped that city over the summer of 2020. But for the most part, the response from the gathered crowd was more one of celebration. It was a night of hugs, not fires.

Trial and Riots

The story begins with a call for service from an employee at Cup Foods, a local "mom and pop" grocery and convenience store at East 38th and Chicago Avenue at the northern edge of the Bancroft neighborhood, wedged about halfway between the Minneapolis Airport and downtown Minneapolis.

This location has become known to local residents as George Floyd Plaza.

After the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd as the black man was dying was released, whole swaths of cities across America were burned to the ground. In Minneapolis alone, the cost of the damage caused by rioters, looters, and arsonists is between $1 billion and $2 billion. You read that right: between one and two BILLION dollars in Minneapolis alone.

Then there's Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, New York, and about 100 other cities. There has yet to be a full and complete accounting of the total financial cost of the riots that some cynically call the "Summer of Love."

There is, of course, no way to calculate the cost in terms of the degradation—and near-collapse—of community well-being. People already predisposed to mistrust the police have cemented their beliefs that no law enforcement officer can be trusted. Police across the country who had already pulled back from proactive policing have all but retreated from the streets in some places.

And the saga of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin isn't over. There are unknown unwritten chapters still to be written.

There are three other officers who were at the scene who now face charges of aiding and abetting—proceedings that have yet to begin. Trial date is set for late August.

In early May Chauvin's attorney filed an appeal based on reports that at least one of the jurors may have prejudged the case. Days later a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin and three other officers on civil rights charges.

One Scribe's Observations

Okay, here's where things are going to get a little bit spicy. What follows is my personal opinion based on my time as a pro-cop civilian member of the media. It's based on what I learned in earning my certification from Force Science Institute—a framed diploma hangs in my home office and serves as a reminder to me of the gravity of this topic every time I sit down at this desk to write.

First and foremost, I think that what Derek Chauvin did was despicable, deplorable, and utterly unforgivable.

But that's not to say that Floyd would still be alive had Chauvin used a different "tactic" to keep the subject under control. After all, Floyd had pre-existing cardio-vascular conditions and enough fentanyl in his system to euthanize a horse. So really, we'll never know for certain.

Still, it was unreasonable to hold Floyd in the prone position for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, handcuffed, and face-down. Chauvin remained there with his knee to the man's neck even after it was determined that the subject didn't have a pulse.

Secondly, Chauvin let his ego take complete control. People armed with cell phone cameras shouted for Chauvin to take his knee off of Floyd's neck. In reviewing the half dozen or so videos it appeared—to me for certain and most likely to the 12 people in the jury box—that each time someone pleaded for him to change tactics, he dug in his heels and grew increasingly defiant. His ego was, as the saying goes, not his "amigo."

Further, where was the street supervisor? Where was the patrol sergeant or lieutenant who could have ordered a subordinate officer to stand down and allow another officer present to take over? For that matter what was going through the minds of the other three officers at the scene, who as mentioned above now face charges of aiding and abetting and may do serious time, and why did they not intervene and save Chauvin from himself?

Finally, what manner of training did Chauvin receive that put the thought into his head that what he was doing was OK? Oh, right, yeah: None.

A verteran police trainer (and close personal friend of mine) who holds many black belts and has trained police for many, many years, teaches arrest and control techniques that would have been suitable in this situation. One in particular comes to mind. Once Floyd was cuffed and gassed out from his resistance, Chauvin could have gone to the man's feet, put one knee up between the subject's legs,  placed the top of one foot on his shoulder, and leaned in, pressing his calf into his thigh. Ouch.

Trust me, nobody in this position is going anywhere. My buddy did this to me for a segment in a series of training videos we recorded at ILEETA a couple of years ago. I walked around with a limp for the duration of the conference.

Key words in that last sentence were "I walked around"—an important improvement over being "tagged and bagged."

Additionally, training at agencies across the country mandates that once a subject is subdued and under control (and despite an early struggle, Floyd was both) responding officers are required—REQUIRED—to administer life-saving medical assistance. Chauvin did quite the opposite. As an EMT approached to help lend assistance, Chauvin shoved her away. He was kneeling on a dead man, and would not let a medical professional at least try to revive him.

It Didn't Have to be This Way

To find another civilian member of the media so staunchly pro-police—with a national reach and audience—you'd go about as far as my boss/editor/colleague David Griffith before you ran out of names. There are a few local journalists I can think of (Frank Somerville of KTVU-TV in the San Francisco Bay Area comes to mind), but finding the troika of nationwide, civilian, and pro-cop… nah.

David and me—that's your list.

I love my police officers, but I will speak truth when I see that one cop in 100,000 who doesn't have any place in the profession. I've said for years that there are pilots who shouldn't be pilots, priests who shouldn't be priests, and plumbers who shouldn't be plumbers. And there are cops who shouldn't be cops.

Derek Chauvin had no place in this noble profession of guardian-warriors—professionals who take seriously their oath to the Constitutions of their states as well as the Constitution of the United States of America. 

Chauvin will most likely never see a day of freedom again in his life—for his protection he is being held in solitary confinement at the Oak Park Heights State Prison. He gets just one hour per day to exercise.

And George Floyd is dead.

Neither of these terrible outcomes should have been the results of George Floyd's arrest over passing a bad bill.

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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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