Tragic Death of George Floyd Reveals Continuing Problem of Police Violence


The death of 46-year-old George Floyd sparked large protests in Minneapolis.

Another unarmed Black man was killed by reckless and unnecessary use of excessive force this week. The plague of lethal police violence against Black people continues to traumatize communities of color in America, adding urgency to the need for reform.

George Floyd died on Monday after Minneapolis police handcuffed him and a white officer forcefully pinned Mr. Floyd’s neck to the ground, choking him until he could no longer speak. A video of the incident shows Mr. Floyd crying out “I can’t breathe” and begging for help before losing consciousness and being put on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital and died a short time later.

EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson on Amanpour & Co. on CNN International and PBS

Killings of unarmed Black people have sparked outrage for several years and calls for reform have been made. In 2015, President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing published dozens of recommendations designed to improve public safety and reduce violence against unarmed Black men and women—violence that the nation continues to see all too often.

Shortly after the transition to a new administration in 2017, the recommendations were cast aside and the policy of community oriented policing was abandoned.

The most recent incidents—including the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and now George Floyd—are heartbreaking examples of the consequences of not confronting long-standing problems, law enforcement bias, and the false myth that people of color are dangerous.

These incidents have been constant, with videos of police interactions often revealing misstatements and omissions in official accounts and demonstrating that changing the culture of law enforcement is critical and urgent.

Now more than ever, police departments need to implement the Task Force’s recommendations. Comprised of law enforcement leaders, policing experts, and community leaders, the Task Force spent months conducting meetings around the country and gathering information and feedback about effective law enforcement practices. In its final report, it made numerous recommendations designed to help law enforcement communities work to build trust with communities by addressing racial profiling, relaxing the police response to mass demonstrations, and collecting more data on police shootings and in-custody deaths.