I’ve had some questions about this from the beginning. The video seen around the world is really damning towards the 4 officers who, having Floyd under restraint and control, suffocated him.
Or to put it more accurately, one who suffocated him while the other 3 did nothing.
The question that I have had from the beginning is what – or who – protected Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck that killed him?
Derek Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department who left behind a trail of misconduct complaints and a reputation for aggression, according to police records and those who knew him.
We were talking about his complaints on the F/B page, and one of the Lexicans, who was a former police officer, made the point that occasionally one can get a complaint on record from an arrest. In other words, just having a few complaints over time is not indicative of one being a good cop or a bad cop.
And of course, the nature of the complaints is indicative.
But 18 complaints in 19 years?
Chauvin lived in a predominantly white St. Paul suburb and racked up 18 complaints over his 19-year career as a police officer, 16 of which were closed without discipline.
Chauvin had a reputation for being overly aggressive and combative, according to the nightclub owner who employed him as a security guard.
One woman who filed a complaint against him in 2007 said Chauvin and another officer pulled her out of her car with no explanation.
Certainly among the complaints these should have been red flags?
So my question reiterating – who – or what – was protecting him?
Was it indifferent police lieutenants or captains?
A culture in the entire Minneapolis police department?
Or the police union?
With all of this news exposure, you’d have thought that some news organization would have done a little digging for some answers. Most of them “report” superficially. I guess that could be the subject of another post.
But finally one newspaper did some digging, and the answer was what I was suspecting. The police union was – and is – a powerful force within the Minneapolis Police Department.
At 10 p.m on May 14, 2004, during an arts festival in northeast Minneapolis, a 24-year-old named Jackson Mahaffy was crossing the street when he bumped into a dark, slow-moving SUV with two off-duty police sergeants inside.
Robert Kroll and the second sergeant hopped out and began hitting Mr. Mahaffy, according to interviews and court documents. Not realizing the two men in civilian clothes were police officers, Mr. Mahaffy’s sister and at least three others came to his defense. The officers attacked them too; Mr. Kroll kicked one seated man in the face, breaking a tooth, witnesses said.
Mr. Mahaffy, by then bruised and bloodied, was arrested and spent three nights in jail. Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, which included assaulting a police officer. A civilian police review board dismissed Mr. Kroll’s story that he had been attacked by anarchists as having “low overall credibility.” Mr. Kroll and the other officer paid the victims $17,000 to settle a civil lawsuit accusing them of excessive use of force, among other things, according to Mr. Mahaffy.
That incident, and nine prior complaints of excessive force, didn’t derail Mr. Kroll’s career. Over the next decade, he instead rose to what may be the most powerful law-enforcement position in the city: president of the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis.
Like police union leaders around the country, Mr. Kroll has accumulated power and protection, both for himself and for the city’s roughly 850 police officers. Union contracts for police provide officers strong barriers to being investigated, disciplined or fired.
…Mr. Kroll condemned the killing and didn’t object when Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo immediately fired Mr. Chauvin, who has since been charged with 2nd degree murder. But he wrote in a letter to union members it was “despicable” that the mayor and governor, both Democrats, had shifted blame for the ensuing violence to police officers.
The incident has sparked a national conversation about police protections and calls to defund police departments. Former mayors and police chiefs say the immense influence of the unions is a key reason attempts to overhaul policing practices, in Minneapolis and elsewhere, have failed. (Highlighting mine). Many cities, lacking cash to boost police salaries, have handed unions authority over everyday functions of police departments, down to how shifts are assigned and overtime is meted out.
From this, many would have you believe that all police are corrupt and bad.
I think it is a job that few people would want – day after day seeing the worst of what humanity can do to each other. Small wonder that suicide is the leading cause of death for police officers.
I have had few professional interactions with the police. One was 20 years ago, when in a routine stop from a St Patrick’s Day party (with Guinness – for strength!), I ended up reciting the alphabet backwards (knowing that failure to do so with probably result in the handcuffs and a tow), and standing on one leg while looking up off I 80 and an offramp. I was not driving erratically, just going 70 in my sports car in a (then) 55 limit.
Doing that – at 0100 with 2 CHP officers by you and traffic whizzing by you, leaves an impression on you.
If you are paying attention.
So much so that 20 years later today, the cute bartender at Katherin’s Biergarten asked me if I would like another nice German beer. To which I told her, “I would, but I won’t. One’s the limit“.
After that encounter, I’ve never have had more than one drink at a restaurant.
Oh, and the result of the stop? I breathed into the breathalyzer, handed it to them, and the 2 of them are whispering to each other about 10 feet from me.
Ten seconds go by, twenty, thirty and they aren’t saying anything to me. I’m thinking if I was under the .08 limit they would have said something . And if I was over they certainly would have let me know. I was becoming a bit anxious over the delay. Not that I was in any hurry to get arrested.
So I broke the silence saying, “Look, you guys let me go I’ll go 55”.
To which one of them turned to me and said “Get outta here!“.
So I went 55, with cars blowing by me that early morning.
I have thought about that early morning for 20 years. Another cop told me that most likely I was right at the .08 limit – a bit below – and they were debating what the formal test at the station would have been.
But I want to leave you with this takeaway:
I was polite and co-cooperative through the whole process.
I suspect if I had been belligerent the cuffs would have gone on and the tow truck called just for being a jerk .
Goes a long way in any interaction, not only with the police but anyone.
Don’t know about the rest of the country but in CA (at the time) it was a minimum $10,000 just going through the court system, not to mention what it does to your insurance. I’m sure it’s more now.
I can also remember years ago a family being devastated by the murder of a sister and mother. And the 2 detectives who I knew had a huge work load with many cases still with compassion made them feel that they were there for them and nobody else.
I suspect that scene continues to play across the country with heartbroken black families, white families, Asian families, hispanic and everyone else. Being helped by black cops, white cops, Asian cops, and hispanic cops.
Nobody will ever convince me that all cops are bad.
Most are good.
But the power of these police unions has to be diminished to weed out the bad ones, who make the rest look bad.