The Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has rightly spurred nationwide outrage.
Once again, we have a case of the police killing someone who did not deserve the death penalty. And once again, we have another story of a black American on the receiving end of unjustified police violence.
According to the Associated Press, police were called after Floyd, who lost his job due to the stay-at-home order, allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill.
While handcuffed with his hands behind his back, Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes until he passed out and later was pronounced dead.
This is the sort of senseless killing one might expect in a backward, repressive society that does not value individual rights. But no, this happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Those who swear an oath to protect and serve the public are not given license to abuse their power. Fortunately, most police officers serve their communities admirably. But some do not. It is for that reason that reforms ranging from body camera use to modifying the standards for use of deadly force to permitting greater access to misconduct records have been enacted.
On the latter especially here in California, we unfortunately saw police unions fight against the best interests of the public. We also saw Attorney General Xavier Becerra repeatedly resist giving the public access to misconduct records.
It is because of a wish to prevent senseless killings like that of George Floyd that such reforms are pursued and needed. And it’s why more changes are probably needed moving forward here and across the nation.
This includes some changes in the power of state and local governments, but also potentially the United States Supreme Court, which should curtail if not abolish qualified immunity.
What the nation needs is productive dialogue to further explore such changes. Riots and other violent actions are not the just way forward. Nor are the predictably unhelpful tweets from the president vowing “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
What happened to George Floyd must be a turning point toward more sensible and more humane policing.