By Najee Ali
George Floyd, the African-American man whose death was captured on videotape last May and sparked global protests, once again is the center of controversy, even in death.
Floyd died at the hands of a white Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe at least 20 times. Floyd died as a result of police brutality and Chauvin, along with three other police officers, are currently facing criminal charges.
It was discovered during last week’s Valentine’s Day weekend that some Los Angeles Police Department employees circulated an inappropriate image of Floyd. The image was styled in a Valentine-like format with the words “You take my breath away.”
It is despicable and outrageous for any LAPD employee to mock the death of Floyd. On Feb. 15, outside the Harbor Community Police Station, a coalition of Los Angeles civic leaders called for the termination of any LAPD employee who may have circulated this offensive image in the LAPD workplace. The activists also called for a meeting with LAPD Chief Michel Moore to receive an update on the status of the investigation.
To his credit, Chief Moore assured me he would have zero tolerance for that type of racist act in his department. Our new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón issued a statement calling the allegations “exceedingly disturbing,” and saying that anyone involved should be fired.
“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.”
The African-American community historically has always had a problematic relationship with the LAPD. The mocking of a Black man’s death at the hands of police by some LAPD employees does not help build bridges with the Black community.
That action has the potential to severely damage the trust and perception by community residents of the LAPD. I have been in contact all week with attorney Ben Crump, who is the Floyd family attorney.
“This is beyond insult on top of injury — it’s injury on top of death,” Crump said. “The type of callousness and cruelty within a person’s soul needed to do something like this evades comprehension — and is indicative of a much larger problem within the culture of the LAPD.”
I agree with Crump, Gascón and Moore and their respective statements condemning the mocking of Floyd’s murder. Moore has the entire nation watching how this investigation is handled. To his credit, he and his command staff have been in communication with several community leaders and promised zero tolerance for racist acts committed by employees in his department.
I believe in Moore. So far I have seen nothing but character and integrity out of him. If he makes a mistake, he apologizes for it publicly and we move on.
The reality is I thought we were finally turning the corner with improved race relations between the Black community and the LAPD. I believe we are and that is why it is critical that Moore continues to meet and engage our leadership and that we listen and not give up on each other. La Wanda Hawkins. Cheyenne Bryant, NAACP San Pedro Branch president; and LADP Deputy Chief Regina Scott, thank you so much for your unsung leadership on this issue.
Save the date: March 16 at Algin Sutton Recreation Center. The 30th anniversary of the tragic murder of Latasha Harlins will be remembered. Harlins was only 15 when she was shot in the back of the head as she was exiting a liquor store by Soon Ja Du, a Korean merchant, over a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. Latasha’s killer was found guilty but was only sentenced to probation with no jail time. On March 16, we join the Harlins family as we remember a young child from our community unjustly murdered.