Discerning the pandemonium
I write this article as a follow-up contribution to the editorial “Reformed theology’s commentary on the pandemic of 2020 (2)” published in the July 2020 edition of the Standard Bearer. In the introduction the author made the statement “The police’s killing of George Floyd in the U.S. state of Minnesota….” While the author’s point and overall message were sound, this statement was not. The mainstream media often chooses not to portray law enforcement in a favorable way. The media and other groups regularly use law enforcement encounters with the public as a driving force for accomplishing their larger objectives. Unfortunately, this often means vilifying the officers individually and police collectively. It was very disappointing to see that these groups have succeeded in infiltrating even the thoughts of those in the church of Christ and in the pages of the SB. In response, I called and had a positive conversation with the author of the editorial. The editor requested that I write a short article to explain briefly some of these points for the readers of the SB. The humble goal of this article is to encourage godly Reformed thinking and discernment and to present additional information for the reader about the pandemonium.
The media made a concerted effort to report the idea that the police killed George Floyd. Public outrage over “police brutality” has almost become a part of American culture and media reporting. Rodney King, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and several others. Often the facts and the video are edited or not fully available at the time of the story. It can be very difficult to understand accurately what occurred and why it occurred in these circumstances, even for other police officers. Often the training and mindset of the police officer is deemed irrelevant. One example of this is something called the Tueller Drill. This is a drill that officers receive in their basic academy training. In this drill officers are faced with a subject holding a knife or other object (hammer, bat, etc.) that charges them while their handgun is holstered. This drill teaches that they are unable to react in time to defend themselves if the attacker is 21 feet or closer. As a result of this training, sometimes officers elect to use deadly force on a seemingly “unthreatening” subject that is armed with “only” a knife. However, when these situations occur, the media does not include the officer’s training and the Tueller Drill in their reporting of what occurred.
In the recent case of George Floyd’s death, a large amount of information is unknown that is needed to fully understand what happened. Some factual information is publicly available, but judging the officers involved should not occur until all the facts are known. This can be hard even for another officer. However, just this week (August 4) footage from two of the officers’ body cameras was leaked and the new facts show why it is important to reserve judgment. We ought not be making the statement that the police killed George Floyd unless that is an established fact, and in this case it is not. A proper statement about what occurred, with the information that is available at this point, is that George Floyd died while in police custody. The difference in phraseology is subtle but very important, especially when we consider the impact of the pandemonium that has followed. It may be that at the conclusion of the investigation the statement is accurate, but such an inflammatory, accusatory statement ought not to be made or used until it is a proven fact.
Some facts publicly available at this point are:
• On May 25, 2020, a Cub Foods’ employee suspected that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes.
• Employees confronted Floyd, who was seated in the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
• An employee then called the police and reported that Floyd had used “fake bills,” “was awfully drunk,” and “not in control of himself.”
• Officers responded, investigated, and made the decision to arrest Floyd.
• Officers can be heard asking Floyd about his condition. They tell Floyd that he is acting “real erratic” and comment about foam around his mouth.
• During the arrest Floyd ended up face-down on the ground with three officers controlling him.
• Officer Derek Chauvin applied force with his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck.
• Floyd made numerous statements indicating that he felt he was in distress and could not breathe, became unresponsive, and died.
I, along with most police officers that I know, am disturbed by the initial video. Why Officer Chauvin positioned his knee that way, for that long, or why he does not appear to render aid once Floyd becomes unresponsive is troubling. However, there is a formal process in our judicial system and within most police departments to review these issues. Judgment as to an officer’s guilt of misconduct or a crime ought to be properly reserved until these processes have fully occurred.
The Hennepin County medical examiner performed the official autopsy. By the time the autopsy results were released, the pandemonium was already raging. The police had murdered George Floyd. However, the autopsy report contradicts this judgment.
A brief aside, in any walk of life there are a wide variety of terms used and an understanding of such terms is vitally important to understand what is being said. Law enforcement, medical, and legal terms are no different. The term “homicide,” is used by both medical examiners and the judicial system, but it has very different meanings. This causes much confusion because it is not properly explained and understood. When a medical examiner determines a manner of death to be a “homicide,” it means that the death occurred due to the action of another person. This action could be unintentional, intentional, illegal, or legal (such as self-defense or lawful use of force by a police officer). The official autopsy will read “homicide” in all these cases. A judicial definition of “homicide” is much different, and we are more familiar with this definition.
The official autopsy does list George Floyd’s manner of death as “homicide.” However, this does not automatically mean that the actions of the officers were criminal. A closer look shows that there were “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” If George Floyd died due to Officer Chauvin applying pressure to his neck and forcibly not allowing him to breathe, this statement would not be in the report. In fact, the medical examiner appears to be specifically addressing this accusation and explaining that it is not accurate. The autopsy also shows that Floyd suffered from severe coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, and COVID-19. Additionally, the report shows fentanyl intoxication, recent methamphetamine use, and THC (marijuana) use. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids and is 80-100 times more powerful than morphine. The medical examiner’s preliminary opinion published was that George Floyd’s death was caused by “a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained.” It further reads “the combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”
Another very concerning aspect of the author’s statement (“The police’s killing of George Floyd in the U.S. state of Minnesota…”) is the broad brush with which it paints. I am a police officer. Many others are police officers. We were not present on May 25. Yet the broad brush with which the author paints includes myself and every other police officer as a killer of George Floyd. This is exactly what certain agendas want conveyed by this statement, and that message is now causing outrage against police officers and institutions of law and order across the county. It has led to protests, riots, and “defund police” campaigns. As of July 22 police officers killed in the line of duty by felonious actions was up 28% in 2020 compared to 2019. The city of Chicago reported that 130 officers were injured between 5 p.m. on May 29 and midnight on May 31 during protests (according to WTTW-Chicago). According to NBCNew York over 350 NYPD officers were injured during the first two weeks of protests. These numbers are just a fraction of the whole.
Thankfully, on the whole the community where I live and work is very positive and supportive of law enforcement and not reflective of these trends. I would briefly like to thank any of them reading this article for their support and prayers.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage everyone to continue to be discerning and not rush to rash judgments based on what is portrayed in the media. Read, hear, and watch with a discerning spirit and seek the truth, not an emotional reaction. Know that God is providentially guiding these events to accomplish His purpose of bringing His kingdom to pass. May our spirits be filled with longing and joy as we wait and watch for His coming.