Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter April 20 in the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. The jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before coming to their decision that kneeling on a man’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds was the cause of death and just plain wrong on many levels.
Floyd’s death – and the deaths of far too many others – have, like so many issues these days, polarized our country and forced us to think we have to choose between one of two sides: Black Lives Matter or Back the Blue. This binary is a false, oversimplified construct.
First black lives do matter, and data supports time and time again that black lives are being taken by law enforcement at an alarmingly higher rate than white lives as a percentage of the population. This is a problem that must be solved. As a mother of three white males, I never worry if they get stopped for speeding or not signaling a turn or wearing a hoodie in public that they will be killed. I do worry about them being killed by some yahoo texting and driving or drinking and driving or thinking that our back country roads are the German Autobahn, but that’s a column for another day.
Believing black lives matter does not mean one does not support law enforcement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 650,000 police and sheriff patrol officers in the United States who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities, and they fulfill their oaths well.
But, if even a 10th of one percent of this workforce – or 650 people – is performing in a way that violates policy, does not align with training or actually harms or kills people, that is a problem that must be solved.
Let’s take “law enforcement” out of the equation and look at this from a business perspective.
Consider a manufacturing facility, for example. If a company has 10 trained and certified forklift operators, and one of these forklift operators has dropped and damaged merchandise, knocked over an industrial shelving unit and run over a colleague’s foot, that’s a problem that must be solved. Additional training, job duty reassignment or loss of employment are three potential options. The company must hold this employee accountable for the betterment of its workforce and, at the same time, accept responsibility for the hire and what could’ve led to the issues with job performance.
Believing justice was served in the Chauvin trial does not equate to believing law enforcement is not supported. Similar to the example of the forklift operator, Chauvin performed in a way that violated policy, did not align with training and actually killed somebody –George Floyd.
Floyd’s family will not get him back. But our law enforcement community must take steps to ensure the right people are on the job with appropriate training, the right resources and, yes, accountability. Failure to do so makes the rest of the team look bad.
Supporting appropriate training and accountability is backing the badge and law enforcement credibility.
If employees can’t handle the forklift, put them on desk duty.