Death of George Floyd
On May 25, George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police Department. The alleged crime was forgery. The police handcuffed him and put him on the ground where one of the officers began to kneel on his neck. Despite distress signals from Floyd, and despite the protests of those around him, the officer kept his knee on Floyd until an ambulance arrived to take Floyd away. He didn’t have a pulse by the time the ambulance arrived. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Since that time, government officials of all levels have responded to the incident. The mayor, the city council, the governor, and even the president have called for immediate actions and investigations. The four officers involved have been fired, and charges have been called for.
We recognize that most police officers would never have done anything like this. The vast majority of our nation’s police force are good, hard working men and women who seek the public good and put their lives on the line to protect others. But acts like these not only make them look bad, but endanger them and fuel anti-police rhetoric and violence.
The knee on George Floyd’s neck has been compared to the knee on the neck of black America. People of color have been suffering in America since the beginning. Much of the time, they suffer silently; silently dealing with somebody calling the police because they went for a walk, silently dealing with being pulled over and searched without cause, silently dealing with fewer job opportunities and fewer housing options. And then there are times like now, when their anger boils over. Protests begin, and there are some who turn the protests to violence, as the rest of America watches in horror, relieved to be elsewhere.
Utah has largely remained out of the spotlight when it comes to escalating racial tensions. However, times like these should be reminders for all of us to look to see how we are doing and where we can improve. And we can improve. The Utah branch of Black Lives Matter has called for a nation wide police reform bill (https://www.change.org/p/nancy-pelosi-we-want-a-police-reform-bill-now), but we do not need to wait until the nation changes to start improvements here. Lex Scott, who wrote the petition, calls for democratically elected police review boards, more transparency, and more training. She’s also personally been working with the SLCPD to help train them on implicit biases, and how to counteract them. She is a good example of someone who is actively fighting to improve things here in Utah.
The United Utah Party supports laws that fight discrimination based on race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation. We should be taking action now, before something like what happened in Minneapolis happens here. For us as individuals, we should be seriously talking about this issue and considering what Utah can do to prevent incidents such as Floyd’s. The petition from Utah’s Black Lives Matter is a good start. We might also consider adding training for police officers on what to do if they see a fellow police officer going too far.
The time to act is now. Officials on all levels should be considering what to do now and we as voters should be considering who is best equipped to deal with these issues at the ballot box. From the individual police officers to our country’s president, we should be looking at what government reforms can improve this problem before it becomes any worse.