My reaction to the response to Peter Skeels’ “Comply” LTE was one of surprise. I often find myself nodding in agreement with his opinions, happy he took the time to write, but this time I felt my head shaking in disbelief. I assume his comments were based on watching the Derek Chauvin murder trial.
Of course, in normal circumstances, everyone should comply with a police officer. But not everyone is mentally able to do so. We watched as George Floyd, under the influence of drugs and claustrophobic, freak out at being shoved into the back of the police car. Would things have been different if he complied and just gotten in? Maybe. But he didn’t and once he’s in custody (handcuffed) he is under police care and it is their responsibility to keep him safe (and alive).
We heard Mr Floyd say ‘“Thank you Officer” when they pulled him out of the car. That is a showing of respect, courtesy, to the police. Did they show him the same? Did they deescalate the situation — or escalate it?
This week’s NYT reported that a woman in Colorado had her arm broken and shoulder dislocated by the police — and didn’t receive medical care for hours — after she walked out of a store with $13 worth of stolen goods. She was elderly and had dementia.
Last year a man who was in psychiatric distress (his brother called the police for help) was left handcuffed and lying naked in the snow with a hood over his head while the police stood around. He later died.
Not everyone is mentally able to “comply” for a variety of reasons.
Then there’s the enormous issue of racial injustice.
Perhaps Mr Floyd, apparently like many in his neighborhood, knew about Derek Chauvin’s prior history – 22 prior charges of abuse, many of deadly or violent abuse. Perhaps he knew of the Minneapolis police’s history of “police misconduct” (now being federally investigated). Or perhaps he just knew that people of color often don’t fare well in the back of a police car.
Hopefully the death of George Floyd and conviction of Derek Chauvin will prompt real changes to stop abusive police.