Fear and integrity

I knew I had to write about the George Floyd/Derek Chauvin verdict today, but I was afraid.

It was the right verdict. That was obvious from the video. Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. It should never have happened.

But I was afraid of the trolls who will inevitably flood my comments with hate.

And I was afraid, too, that as an old white man, I don’t have the standing to say anything.

But take note:

The reason there was a trial is because Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old, had the courage to film what happened.

The reason that Chauvin was convicted is that police experts testified against him. You rarely see that. These police knew when policing is done wrong, and they said so, in public.

The reason that George Floyd is dead is not just because of Derek Chauvin’s indifference to whether he was killing Floyd, but because his fellow officers on the scene did nothing while he was killing a man.

You may think you can’t stop things like this from happening.

But here’s what you can do.

If you see a police encounter, bear witness. Record it. More video means more transparency. If Darnella Frazier could do it, you can do it. The reason we are all asking so many questions now is because of all the video.

If you are working with police who you are concerned are doing the wrong thing, talk with them. If you are a policeman or policewoman and this is your fellow officer, is this how you want the public to think of you? In private, have the conversation.

And if you are on the front lines of policing, consider your own behavior. All of us have done things in our lives and our careers that we regret. If you’re honest with yourself, just like the rest of us, you have probably have made some decisions that, in retrospect, you wonder about. Keep wondering. There is no requirement that you keep doing the job exactly as you have been. Your decisions are life-and-death, not just for you and your fellow officers, but for everyone you encounter.

All of these things take courage. We need that courage now, if we are to survive as a whole society.

In a battle between police and minorities, there is no winner. There is only bloodshed and suspicion and hate.

I have no interest in taking sides. There will always be police. There will always be criminals. There will always be bad choices and bias and hate.

But maybe, after today, we can begin to find ways to live our lives and do our jobs without retreating to armed camps and killing each other. Maybe if there is more video and police can be convicted and the political winds shift, some things will change.

I’m still afraid. But I can’t just turn away. Can you?

11 responses to “Fear and integrity

  1. Everyone can improve themselves, and should never stop doing so.

    I think you’re spot on.

    Systems, perhaps even more than individual people who enact and participate in them, always can be improved. There should always be work directed to that end.

    The hard parts are that people need to have the courage to act when ethical standards are being broken by a system in which they’re particants. Even deeper, they need the courage to step outside their paradigms of the world, so that they can develop ability to see how things should be – and how the current systems aren’t delivering on that goal.

  2. But maybe, after today, we can begin to find ways to live our lives and do our jobs without retreating to armed camps and killing each other. Maybe if there is more video and police can be convicted and the political winds shift, some things will change.

    That says it all.

    Good stuff today, thanks.

  3. As another old white man, I am repulsed by the violent and unfair way people of color are treated by law enforcement. I support the police: we need them. However, they have become too militarized. They escalate to deadly force too quickly. The examples are all too frequent.

    There are many uncomfortable truths embedded in this issue. The biggest one is that people of color should not be treated like animals by those sworn to serve and protect.

    Police are asked to do a lot. I think what is missing is “strike force” mental health teams who can be deployed quickly to help talk people down rather pulling the trigger.

    Let’s not allow this issue to age off the cable news and be replaced by less important shiny object issues. We all own this. Every one of us.

  4. Defunding the Police is not the answer. Adding more training to our officers is the best path forward. Training on de-escalation, personal and team accountability, and on how to engage with those who may have mental illness issues until specialists can arrive. Policy review is needed. Have we upgraded policies and procedures for how to better engage with people? Law Enforcement agents serve a special need in any civilized society. If we do not have them, the lawless take over. More training reduces risk to *everyone* involved in any encounter between the police and the citizens of the community.

  5. I can only speak to what is within my power to do. As a white person, I pledge to have the courage of Darnella Frazier and the others who stood and bore witness to what was happening, filming it, calling the police on the police, and saying yes when asked to testify. If I do not do this, then I am complicit in the systems that injure people, oftentimes resulting in death sentences for non-criminal activity. To paraphrase Genesis 4:10, the blood of my brother cries out to me from the ground.

    PS. I’m not convinced about the police needing training. How many hundreds of hours of training had Chauvin had? Or how about Kim Potter?

  6. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s not just more training that the police need, it’s different training. One of Chauvin’s arguments (which evaporated pretty quickly) was that he was doing what he was trained to do. Many people will believe that.

    There have been too many times when people do not immediately respond to a police order the way police would like, and police start shooting. Don’t obey fast enough, don’t answer questions, run away… and you’re a possible victim.

    In reality, in many cases, the police have a car license plate or other means of identifying and finding the people in question. But too often, they’re not interested in that. They create a showdown and use force to settle it. That’s what has to change.

    1. If the intent portion is turned down on appeal, the others will stand.

      If your problem is that you feel he was convicted too many times — really, a guy kills another guy and that’s your objection?

      If you put quotes around “convicted,” that sort of undermines your “argument.” 12 jurors voted to convict. That’s how our system works. Or are we doubting every jury trial we disagree with now?

  7. vdare is hardly a credible source of info. That said Andrew McCarthy outlines a solid argument about this.

    Perhaps it is arguably “unfair” in a legal sense.

    But, weighed against the tragedy of Chauvin’s conduct (and that of the police around him), even if it is “unfair”, it is far from the scale of the harm done in his hands / knees. The number of years in his sentence may well be the same ballpark in any case. No need to shed tears here.

    Had his past conduct been appropriately dealt with, it likely would never have come to this point. Or, that the other cops would have the courage to step in before it gets to a point like this.

    I doubt much will change from this one verdict alone. Cops are way too quick to pull a weapon. Unions and police forces are all too willing to defend the indefensible (look at the initial public statements from the Minneapolis force and the union head in this case).

    I loathe the “defund police” concept, but policing “leadership” needs a major change in attitude and they need to step up accountability. Training to de-escalate, and use alternative tactics before escalating (can we learn something from policing in other countries on how to do this?). I think this is what people really want.

    Those in position of responsibility need to step up on this, or ideas like “defunding” will be forced on them. I don’t think we want to see where the latter leads.

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