One year ago today, George Floyd was arrested for passing a bad 20 dollar bill at a convenience store on Minneapolis’ southside. His death in custody was a link in a chain of events that lead back to the moment we were all living in May 2020.
We were living in COVID lockdown. All bars and restaurants were closed or doing take-out only. All clubs had been shuttered, including the one that employed Floyd as a bouncer.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was a man on the edge. He was an addict struggling with his recovery with a criminal record. He had come to Minnesota to make a fresh start, and the government’s response to COVID had knocked him down.
That is what government can do when it has that kind of power. To save some people, it destroyed countless others. It created pandemic millionaires while it snuffed out the life savings of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and families.
People on the left think that new laws and programs can right wrongs, but the government will get it wrong again. There is no “justice” for George Floyd, even if the police responsible for his death go to jail. His family will get $27 Million from the taxpayers of Minneapolis. Looters got their flat-screen TVs and other booty. Non-profits are raking in millions from big corporations who have bought into woke culture. None of those things are justice.
The underlying causes for what happened to George Floyd are not being addressed in two important ways. One is our loss of freedom due to the government’s response to the pandemic. The other is the failure to address police reform in a way that enhances the security of all law-abiding citizens and does not undermine it.
The government’s response to COVID robbed all of us of our belief as Americans that the government cannot drastically alter our lives with the stroke of a pen, in this case, for a tenuous scientific experiment. Previously, we had thought of cases like this where citizens are rendered powerless as limited to unlucky people who had unique circumstances, like wrongful convictions, eminent domain, or who faced overzealous regulators and prosecutors. The unfairness of the COVID regulations created winners and losers on a vast scale, and those who tried to fight them lost and often lost big.
Police Reform means different things to different people. Some easy reforms have been put in place or started, like increased use of body cams and more police training. Getting mental health crisis services looped into the 911 response will take time and a lot more money. But the most politically challenging change to accomplish has been accountability; police need to be held accountable for misconduct.
One of the accountability reforms that has been proposed is ending “qualified immunity.” This would mean that cities would no longer stand behind individual officers if they were sued by people claiming injury. For qualified immunity to work, law enforcement would need to carry malpractice insurance and have an individual insurance risk rating similar to doctors. But we all know that one of the reasons that Doctors are so highly paid is because this kind of insurance can be costly. To have a fully staffed police department, the salaries of officers would have to increase. Property taxes would skyrocket, and some departments would be forced to disband.
Another type of reform being proposed is ending “binding arbitration.” When police officers have a misconduct complaint against them, the department investigates it, and the officer has union representation. If the department decides to discipline the officer, the union can invoke “binding arbitration” for the case, which means that a mediator steps in to determine if the officer is disciplined or not and what type of discipline. Having this process, which is after the management process and remains private, means that an officer sometimes can have many complaints, none of which or only a fraction of which result in discipline. Even citizen oversight boards (another suggested reform) may not have access to that information. We know that is what happened in the case of Officer Chauvin.
Unions complain that management does not even push back when countered with this system. Still, it is clear that having binding arbitration there as a backstop means that the department may have to spend limited resources trying to discipline or fire an officer only to get overruled. It’s easy to blame one party or another for how this happens, but the bottom line is that accountability suffers.
This is where things stand in the “police reform” debate. Right now, the Senate and House have working groups trying to hammer out a deal on what policy will be part of the Public Safety budget bill. It’s unknown whether or how much police accountability reform will be in it. Senator Gazelka has already said the Senate will not agree to qualified immunity or a citizen’s review board.