Social media with Valentine theme draws revulsion from many sides
Staff and Wire Reports
LOS ANGELES — A Valentine-themed social media post mocking the death of George Floyd that was circulated by a Los Angeles Police Department employee drew the wrath of Black activists this week, who called for an internal investigation by the LAPD and discipline for the person circulating the post.
The post featured a picture of Floyd, who died last May in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, and the words “You take my breath away,” a play on Floyd’s final words “I can’t breathe.”
The police union, the Floyd family attorney and the Los Angeles County district attorney all decried the post.
“The family of George Floyd is outraged and devastated,’” Project Islamic Hope director Najee Ali said at a news conference Feb. 15 outside the LAPD’s Harbor station, where an officer made a formal complaint about the post at the urging of Police Chief Michel Moore. “It’s despicable and outrageous that there are LAPD employees who are in the workplace mocking the police murder of George Floyd.”
Floyd’s death sparked angry protests that lied to violence and vandalism across the country. The Minneapolis police officer who allegedly kneeled on Floyd’s deck, Derek Chauvin, is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge.
LAPD officials said they launched an internal investigation after an officer complained about the image and alleged it was being circulated within the department. Department officials said they have not yet determined whether the post was circulated by any members of the LAPD.
Moore told the Los Angeles Times he was determined to find out what happened and who, if anyone, from the department was involved.
“Our investigation is to determine the accuracy of the allegations while also reinforcing our zero tolerance for anything with racist views,” Moore said Feb. 13. “If the department confirms that officers were circulating the image, people will find my wrath.”
Ali and a coalition of activists asked for a meeting with Moore and called for “the termination of any LAPD [employee] who shared this image” mocking Floyd’s killing.
“We have a relationship with law enforcement,” community activist LaWanda Hawkins said at the Feb. 15 press conference. “And I’m not going to allow anything like that to destroy our relationship. I hope this makes our relationship a little bit stronger. I know the [police] captain here and I know how he’s working with the community.”
Ali also shared a statement from the Floyd family’s attorney, which read in part: “The Floyd family is understandably outraged. This is beyond insult on top of injury. It’s injury on top of death. The type of callousness and cruelty within a person’s soul for them to do something [like this] evades comprehension and is indicative of a much large problem with the culture of the LAPD.”
The LAPD’s union also expressed outrage at the post.
“The Los Angeles Police Protective League repudiates this abhorrent image and anyone associated with its creation, dissemination, or passive observation of it,” the union said in a statement Feb. 15. “If that image was created, ‘liked,’ or shared by a member of the LAPD, the chief of police must act swiftly to hold those individuals accountable.
“There must be zero tolerance for this behavior in our profession, and any police officer who feels the need to be part of any online group that engages in, promotes, and/or celebrates this type of activity should quickly rethink their career choice because they clearly don’t have the judgment, nor temperament, to be a member of law enforcement.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who has made addressing systemic racism the cornerstone of his mission since taking office in December, said his office would look into the matter to determine if the integrity of any of its cases may have been compromised by biased police work.
“Celebrating the murder of a Black man at the hands of police demonstrates a profound absence of humanity,” Gascón said. “The mock valentine underscores the highly problematic, and frankly, racist perceptions that pervade the law enforcement culture regarding the communities we are sworn to protect and serve.”
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer also released a statement condemning such behavior.
“No one with racist views has any place in our police force,” Feuer said. “It is outrageous that anyone sworn to serve our city would ever conceive of creating or distributing this image. I commend Chief Moore’s swift action in getting to the bottom of this, and his commitment to hold the offending officer(s) accountable. Whoever participated in this incident stains the badge, and undermines the efforts of officers throughout the department who strive to earn the trust and respect of the communities they serve.”
Reports of the image, and the subsequent complaint within the LAPD, first surfaced Feb. 12, two day’s before Valentine’s Day.