The Minneapolis police department should have been on its best behavior, as the trial of George Floyd’s murderer was being held a short distance away. Every police department should have been on its best fucking behavior and every officer should have been very fucking careful. It would have been in their interests to take a break from, if not put a moratorium on, murdering people.
We saw in the trial of Floyd’s murderer a number of high profile members of the Minneapolis police turning on one of their own. It is rare for cops to testify against other cops. The police are a gang like any other and snitching is a violation of their code. It could be seen as respectable and right that other cops would say on the record that what Chauvin did was wrong, but it can also be seen as a calculated tactic. What the chief of the Minneapolis police and others were careful to clarify was that Chauvin’s actions were not in line with the practices and the ethics of their department. By making this distinction, they were saying that Floyd’s murder was a unique incident and that his death was solely the fault of Chauvin and his particular actions, and that it was not the fault of the Minneapolis police department or of police culture in general. While these extremely rare occasions of the police not protecting the murderers in their ranks is nice, it is further promotion of the “bad apple” defense which allows police departments nationwide to deny the violent and toxic culture endemic to the job, treating particularly egregious violations as aberrations, and maintaining the status quo.
If that case were treated as an indictment against the police rather than one former officer, perhaps other police would fall in line and behave more cautiously, and maybe Daunte Wright wouldn’t have been shot to death near where the trial of Floyd’s murderer was taking place. It’s almost as if Wright was murdered to prove that the police will not learn their lesson and will not stop killing people. The officer that gunned him down was a veteran, who trained other officers, so it would be a stretch to apply the “bad apple” defense here. She’s supposed to be one of the good, experienced, responsible ones.
The defense of Wright’s murderer is that she thought she was holding her taser rather than her gun, so shooting him was an accident. As many have pointed out, tasers and guns are quite different in weight, feel, materials, functioning, and what side of a cop’s belt they’re holstered on.
Putting aside the idiocy that defense, we should also be asking why she was going to tase Wright. No account I’ve heard of this incident describes the officer or any civilians being in danger, so why would it be appropriate to use a taser? While one can make the argument that it would have been better for Wright if he had been electrocuted rather than shot in the chest, it’s not as though tasers are a safe and harmless tool to be casually used. While not as deadly as guns, they are dangerous weapons that cause extreme pain and trauma, and which can cause lasting injury and occasionally death.
The murder of Daunte Wright connects to the murder of George Floyd not just in that they were Black men killed by police in the Minneapolis area, but in that they display the broader nature of policing. These cases and too many others are evidence that the deaths of innocent people, a disproportionate number of them Black and brown men and boys, are not merely the fault of individual mistakes, hostilities, or biases, but of the prevailing culture of policing, which maintains control through violence. It is not safety that Chauvin or Potter or any other killer cop was upholding, but control. Their ability and perceived right to enforce control over other people. They were not protecting anyone. Police rarely protect anyone. Perhaps not enough time is dedicated to maintaining public safety in their training, because the actions of police nationwide demonstrate that their dominant philosophy is public control. They exercise their control over members of the public through violence, and whether one complies with their control or not, they can still be killed. You don’t have to threaten other people, or a cop, for the cops to perceive you as a threat to their power to control and kill you for it.