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The moral dimension of policing

The moral dimension of policing

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In the April 2 edition of the Dothan Eagle, Cal Thomas wrote a piece titled, “The George Floyd Narrative.” In his column, he asserts that the narrative about Derek Chauvin’s role in the murder of George Floyd was “firmly fixed by the media, activists, and rioters prior to the trial.” He goes on to imply that Floyd was somehow responsible for his own death. He talks about how Floyd appeared to be in an “agitated state” and initially refused to place his hands on the steering wheel of his car. He writes about Floyd “resisting officers” and that he (Floyd) admitting using drugs. He also cites as justification for his views the opinion of someone who worked in the Police Misconduct Unit of the Philadelphia DA’s office from 1978 – 1983; nearly 40 years ago. That said, I disagree with Cal Thomas’ narrative on several counts.

First of all, last time I checked, addiction is not a crime. To suggest that Floyd’s drug use was somehow justification for his murder is outrageous and ridiculous. While it is true that some drugs can contribute to erratic behavior, so can alcohol or certain mental conditions; none of which should be offered as justification for excessive use of force. Thomas mentions in his column that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck was consistent with what is taught in the Minneapolis Policy Academy. However, a senior officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, recently testified that Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd was “uncalled for” and that he saw “no reason” that Chauvin and the other officers should have felt they were in any danger. However, Cal Thomas would have us believe that it is an acceptable police tactic to put your knee on the neck of a handcuffed man for more than nine minutes, squeezing the very life out of him.

I recommend Mr. Thomas take the time to read “Power and Restraint: The Moral Dimensions of Police Work” by Howard Cohen and Michael Feldberg. In it, they talk about the need for the police to be ethical in the execution of their duties. Policing without a moral compass leads to brutality, which is what we witnessed in the case of George Floyd. As Cohen and Feldberg point out, “There is no sidestepping the moral dimensions of the job.” Regardless of the media’s coverage of the incident or the work of activists, Derek Chauvin must bear responsibility for his actions.

Eric C. Little


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