The first step in reforming police behavior is to show that there is an issue that needs to be reformed. This part of the Series on Police Brutality Killings focuses on the charges and legal issues stemming from each of the recent killings by law enforcement officers. In the George Floyd case, Officer Chauvin was originally charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Two days later, after the Minnesota AG took over the case, the charges were amended to include unintentional second-degree murder under the felony-murder doctrine. The other three officers involved in the death of Mr. Floyd were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
In the Breonna Taylor case, none of the officers were charged; however, what stemmed from this incident was a legislative change regarding no-knock warrants. In June 2020, Democratic legislators introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. This bill looked at making changes to eradicate police misconduct, excessive force, and the implicit racial bias police have because of their job. This bill also prohibits no-knock warrants for certain situations. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, and Louisville voted to prohibit no-knock warrants, also requiring officers to wear body cams for any warrants that are served.
Initially, there were no charges filed in the Amhaud Arbery case for either of the McMichaels or Bryan. After the Cobb County DA’s office took over the case, Travis and Gregory McMichael were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. Ten days later, Bryan was charged with felony murder and attempted false imprisonment.
Lastly, in the Brooks case, Officer Rolfe was charged with felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four police oath violations, and damage to property. Officer Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of violation of oath. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered the Atlanta Police Department to overhaul their policies regarding use-of-force.
In each of these cases, there is an underlying issue that needs attention. Law enforcement officer training and decision making are problematic in police-citizen interactions. Some of the first issues that protestors demanded and legislations began to do something about was how law enforcement moves up the use of force ladder. Use of force is supposed to be “the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.” This is something that each state and police department is going to have to address in order to make effective change. Hopefully, it is something that will be changed in the near future.