accountability

What Does George Floyd’s Murder Teach about Accountability? – by Vincent I. Phipps

Foremost, my heart goes out to the family, friends, and supporters of Mr. George Floyd.  As a professional communication coach, it can be challenging to remain poised when you are emotional over seeing such an egregious act of what we were victimized to witness.

How is it that the world saw Mr. Floyd have his life extracted and we as viewers are also victims?

The answer is accountability.  We all saw the video.  Former Police Officer Dereck Chauvin, age 44, mercilessly kept his knee in Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.  Although Mr. Floyd desperately pleaded for his life and although civilians videotaped and did their best to inform Former Office Chauvin of Mr. Floyd’s depleting condition, those pleas were unrequited by Chauvin.

What is accountability?  According to Dictionary.com, “the fact or condition of being responsible”.

Was the burden of responsibility and accountability on the civilians?  No. Imagine what would have happened if one of the civilians tried to physically intervene.  It would not have ended well for the civilians.

Was the burden of accountability on the videographer?  No.  For those who are unaware, the videographer was an African-American, 17-year-old female, named Darnella Frazier. According to the Source.com, Darnella says she is saddened and traumatized by having recorded Mr. Floyd’s murder.  She also stated she is receiving negative backlash from others about her failure to intervene and try and help Mr. Floyd instead of only videotaping.  Imagine what would have happened if this young lady stopped filming and tried to physically remove a 44-year-old armed and trained police officer who was already comfortable kneeling on the back of a grounded, handcuffed, grown man’s neck while the officer rested casually with both hands in his pockets.  It would not have ended well for Darnella Frazier. Instead of chastising her, let’s thank her for having the courage and wherewithal to avoid doing what was easy and look away and instead do what was hard and video recorded a man’s death.

Was the burden of accountability on the now arrested former police Derek Chauvin?  Yes, but there is more to it. Former Officer Chauvin was a police officer for 18 years.  Within that time, he had 18 complaints filed against him.  Of those 18, he was only reprimanded twice.  That is a saddening 11%.   Third Degree Murder is the official charge against Chauvin. That could change. First Degree Murder requires proof of intent and or is premeditated.  Premeditated meaning, you planned and prepared to take a person’s life.  Second Degree Murder is reckless behavior or malicious intent that results in a loss of life or lives.  According to NOLO.com, a legal entity with 48 years of serving as a legal authority, Second Degree Murder is often correlated with Involuntary Manslaughter.   

Minnesota’s Attorney General, Keith Ellison is now the acting prosecutor. According to an interview between Mr. Elision and Stephen A. Smith, and ESPN Journalist, Mr. Ellision shared his legal team’s intent is to prosecute Chauvin to the law’s fullest extent. According to Minnesota law, the maximum penalty for second degree murder is 40 years, and for third degree murder, 25 years.  We all have mixed emotions about what punishment is suitable for Chauvin’s sadistic actions.  None of which will give Mr. Floyd back his breath.

Who else is accountable?  Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung, and Tou Thao.  Who are they?  These are the three officers who also need to be held accountable.  I don’t mean to shift the focus off of the heinous acts courageously captured by Darnella Frazier’s videotape.  But let’s also address what level of punishment should be administered on these three officers who stood by and allowed Chauvin to suffocate a helpless person in front of our eyes? 

I am honored to know some outstanding police officers.  Let’s not assume that all members of law enforcement are of the same stock as Chauvin, Lane, Keung, and Thao. There is a code of conduct that impacts perceived loyalty and displaced ego, called “Code Blue”.

Code Blue is that an officer always supports another officer.  Even if the officer is ethically, morally, legally or professionally wrong, police officers are expected to honor the code.  Under the code, an officer may be free to address their feelings, after an arrest in the squad car, back at the station, or in private, but another office is never to intervene in public or do anything that would undermine an officer in public. 

What does Code Blue have to do with Mr. Floyd’s videotaped murder?  Former Police Officers, Lane, Keung, and Thao valued the code and their ego over another person’s life.  Mr. Floyd is gone not just because of the lifeless soul of Chauvin (who has no kids, thank goodness, and is now being divorced).

Ok, back to accountability, in addition to prosecuting Chauvin, also go after those other three officers who stood by and did nothing.  My Mother, Doris Phipps, proudly served 28 years in the United States Army Reserve. Being an African-American woman, in the Army, during the 80s-2000’s, my mother said she often saw actions perpetrated on others where there was a code to keep quiet.  She was proud to be one of the first officers to stand up for the rights of female officers and people of color when the military put systems in place for voices to be heard. 

Police officers do not need sensitivity training.  You can’t train a lion to purr.  We need to hold others accountable by punishing them when they do something wrong.  The judicial system needs a system in place that not only prosecutes wrong doers but also punishes those who are in position to help and allow an injustice to occur.  According to a statement made in the 18th century by politician Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

2 thoughts on “What Does George Floyd’s Murder Teach about Accountability? – by Vincent I. Phipps”

  1. Selecting personnel for “roles” has to be a crucial, diverse, and collaborative team. Human beings decisions can be negative and/or positive and stepping outside the objectives can be detrimental.

  2. Thanks Vincent for truth ,facts, and your deliverance on Accountability. It really did evoke thoughts and feelings about Accountability, for my individual choices and the borders that exist..

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