The case of George Floyd has drawn the attention of the entire world in recent weeks. We all watched in horror this past Memorial Day, as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd and, over nine agonizing minutes, pressed the life out of him. Meanwhile, three other officers on the scene stood by and did nothing to intervene.
What happened to George Floyd should never happen to anyone in the Land of the Free – especially from law enforcement officers who have a sworn duty to protect and serve the community. Unfortunately, though, stories of police brutality in our country are all too common.
A nation in anguish
The senseless killing of George Floyd has sparked public outcry across the nation. Crowds in dozens of cities have taken to the streets, exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully protest. The police have responded to many such demonstrations with riot gear, rubber bullets, tear gas and even tanks.
In this climate of heightened conflict between law enforcement and civilians, it may seem as though the police have a carte blanche do behave in any way they desire. This, however, is flatly untrue. It is important to remember that the police never have the right to use excessive force against civilians – no matter the circumstances.
What happened to George Floyd – and continues to happen throughout our nation – is nothing short of a tragedy. But there are legal mechanisms in place to seek justice.
Criminal charges have now been pressed against all four of the officers involved in George Floyd’s murder. If convicted, they could each face up to 40 years in prison. Taking away the freedom of these four officers would represent one key step in seeking justice for Floyd.
In addition to criminal charges, George Floyd’s surviving family will also have the chance to pursue civil charges for his murder. In wrongful death claims against the police, families can often obtain significant financial compensation for the loss of their loved one.
While no amount of legal actions can take away the irreparable harm caused by police brutality, the George Floyd case serves as a reminder that police behavior of this kind will not be tolerated. It is by standing up for our own rights that we can effect positive institutional change – and create a safer society for us all.