Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 21:48:00 UTC
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If anyone hasn't seen the full bodycam footage of the George Floyd incident:
I think it's clear that he died of a drug overdose, but I don't think that leaves the police without any responsibility. We have to ask whether the police contributed to his death. I think they may have.
At 15:50 in the video, it's apparent that Floyd no longer has the strength to fight, and so one officer asks if they should roll him onto his side. Derek Chauvin replies that they should not, and Floyd very soon becomes completely unresponsive. Outside of what appear to be a few possibly involuntary movements, he remains on the ground and the police appear to do nothing until five minutes later when paramedics arrive.
It is in that five minutes that I think the police fucked up. I think it's clear enough that he died from a drug overdose, but if the police hadn't been there keeping everyone else away from him, would someone else have provided better first aid? I think it's incredibly likely that someone would have done something more effective than nothing.
Even after the paramedics take over, the response really sucks.
It is two minutes before they finally check for a pulse. Then the officer whose bodycam footage this is starts CPR, but does it incredibly ineffectively. Every time you stop chest compressions for even a moment, you're undoing the effect of like ten compressions. So given that he's only doing about ten compressions before moving Floyd's head again, he's almost not doing anything at all.
This continues for about a minute until the paramedic makes it clear that he wants the officer to focus only on compressions. He gets proper compressions for about 45 seconds, but then they stop for another minute because apparently whomever designed that CPR machine failed to design a latching mechanism that people can figure out in a stressful situation.
By the time the CPR machine is running, it has possibly been nine minutes since his heart stopped (we don't know when since no one was checking his pulse) and so at that point he's probably already dead.
So the question I have is, if the police hadn't been there to keep all of the concerned citizens away from Floyd, could the outcome have been better? I think it's easy to conclude that all of those people concerned for Floyd would have attempted CPR sooner. It's questionable if any of them would have performed it better, but at least they would have tried. ...but instead what Floyd got was a bunch of cops keeping everyone who might want to help him away from him under threat of imprisonment.
I also don't think it's impossible that a lot of the reason they failed to do anything was because at that point they really didn't like Floyd (I wouldn't have liked him either, as he was being a complete pain in the ass) and so they really didn't give a fuck what happened to him. However, whatever their motivations, I think that if the police are going to restrain people and not only prevent them from helping themselves, but also prevent other people from helping them, then they have an obligation to provide help that is at least as good as what the person themselves or anyone else might provide.
I think it's clear that they failed to do that here. ...but, unfortunately, that's not what the trial is about.
They've made the trial about whether the knee on the neck killed Floyd, and I think it's pretty clear that it didn't, and so I expect Chauvin to be found not guilty on that charge, and then no one is going to spend any time thinking about whether the police were obligated to provide better medical care given that they were preventing everyone else from providing it.
If someone collapsed in the street and I prevented anyone from helping them until it was too late to save them, would I not be guilty of a crime? I may not have caused their death, but I would have definitely contributed to it. I don't think the police should get a free pass on contributing to someone's death like that just because it's not a crime for them to tell people to stay back.
The crazy thing is that, while I'm not hearing anyone talk about this, I feel like everyone kind of knows it's the real problem, but they're distracted by the knee on the neck and the assumption that the knee is why Floyd is saying "I can't breathe." The most offensive part of that video isn't that they were trying to restrain a ridiculously uncooperative person, but rather, it's that, after he appears to be dead, they just don't care and they do nothing besides hold him down and keep the crowd away from him. If they had only put him on his side when he stopped being responsive, even if they did nothing else to try to help him, I wonder if this case would have even made the news. I definitely don't think it would have turned into nation-wide riots. So I think their sheer lack of concern for his well-being is the key issue.
This isn't even the first time I've heard of something like this. I've heard about cases where the police shoot someone and then do nothing other than prevent anyone else from trying to help until an ambulance arrives, and then the person dies. Preventing anyone from trying to save the person's life is actually in the police's interest because dead people can't testify against them. I think we should be talking about that problem, because even if Derek Chauvin is found guilty, it's still going to be standard police policy that they have no obligation to do anything other than call for an ambulance and in the meantime they are free to prevent anyone else from trying to help.
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