The Case of George Floyd – Who Failed?
I have repeatedly heard all of the available heart-tugging audio and have seen many times the approximately ten-minute duration video of George Floyd’s tragic knee-on-throat death. However, I have not experienced any discourse whatsoever about the role of the three other police officers and all civilians who were present.
Is there a code of police paralysis and silence that is invoked when one’s partner(s) is(are) involved in arresting actions with citizens? I know that all four policemen have been fired, but what charges, if any, will be levied against each one? Why didn’t any one of the other three officers act to save Mr. Floyd’s life? What of their solemn oath “to protect and to serve” and not to allow or use excessive force in the performance of their duties? Were they not intelligent enough to understand the gravity of the moment? Is the thought and practice of interfering so personally dangerous in various ways that normal law enforcement personnel blinded themselves to human decency and their basic obligations? Any one of the other three officers could have individually saved Mr. Floyd’s life, but all three made the conscious decision to allow the deadly action to continue, and their non-involvement caused Mr. Floyd to die.
When pondering the obligations of civilians, who are not trained in confronting illegal and dangerous situations, one cannot condemn their actions, except on an ethical level. However, I could ask, “Why didn’t at least one of them do something in addition only to shouting? Their relative passivity led to Mr. Floyd’s death. Were the civilians afraid of physical harm and legal retaliation? Where was their heroism and sacrifice when it was so desperately needed? Wouldn’t they have wanted an instant citizens’ charge or at least a loud, never-ending chorus of condemnation if their neck were being compressed by an officer’s knee in a similar situation? I surmise that people were stunned and simply could not overcome their desire for preserving their own welfare against risky but very necessary involvement. Should I criticize Germans during World War II for not aiding a downed allied pilot or helping a Jew to hide? After all, there were serious penalties for assisting enemies of the state! When is the defining line reached for absolutely risking one’s own welfare in the name of a moral imperative? Did any civilian at the scene realize that this was a critical moment in his/her life as well as that of George Floyd?
We are told that we must care for our neighbors by wearing a mask during the current pandemic. Should people have identified George Floyd as our neighbor in another deadly situation? Everyone there was being tested to demonstrate with dominant action their concern for a pleading and totally helpless fellow human being who should and could now be alive. I wonder what each of us would have done if we were either one of the policemen or civilians. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing.” The story of George Floyd in Minneapolis demonstrates the truth of this statement. Demonstrations, other protests, and future legal action, while commendable, will not resurrect George Floyd. His opportunity for continued life needlessly slipped away because, for whatever reasons, no one present adopted the necessary moral stance. Can we rate on a scale of zero-100 the amount of blame that the three other policemen and all the civilians deserve in the death of George Floyd?