By Sarah Brill, Co-President of the YU College Democrats
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old Black man, was killed in police custody after being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, one of the officers on site. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds despite Floyd gasping for breath, and he continued to keep his knee on him after he went unconscious and even after the paramedics arrived on scene. This was all in response to suspecting Floyd of attempting to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill in a convenience store. George Floyd’s death sparked outrage within the Black communities and allies as this is not the first time a Black person has been killed by law enforcement while in custody.
Racially charged police brutality has been an ongoing problem in the law enforcement and criminal justice system. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that between 2003-2009, 4,813 Black persons “died during or shortly after law enforcement personnel attempted to arrest or restrain them […] about 60 percent of arrest-related deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel.” Unfortunately, no recent data has been released on the website concerning this topic, but it can be assumed that this number has drastically increased as it has between 2011-2015 from 59 percent to 69 percent arrest-related deaths.
The actions taken by law enforcement officers to use violence or brutality as a form of order is unacceptable and should never be tolerated. George Floyd’s murder was a tipping point. To say that it was “one bad cop” is no longer acceptable. A doctor would not be allowed to practice medicine if they were not qualified to handle human life. This same principle should be applied here. What law enforcement does not realize, or realizes and does not care to change, is that they are taking away human lives on the basis of skin color. They too hold human life in their hands.
There is a problem within our criminal justice system and if failed to be recognized, there will be more unlawful murders by law enforcement. Now is not the time to sit idly by while fellow American citizens are murdered by the hands of those who vowed to protect us. There must be a call for justice for George Floyd and the many others who have been injured or killed on account of systemic racism and engrained discrimination within our country.