Katy Faust interviewed an African-American police officer about the recent murder conviction of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. The officer asked to go unnamed in this article to avoid retaliation for his views. The Federalist obtained documentation of his employment as a police officer.
Did you watch the Derek Chauvin trial coverage?
Not really, just bits and pieces. I already had a pretty clear idea of what took place. And much of the new coverage was biased—they were just showing the parts that pushed a narrative. The news elevated my stress level and with all that’s already going on, I don’t need that.
Do you think Chauvin got a fair trial?
Why wasn’t it fair?
It seemed everybody made up their mind about his guilt before the trial. In addition, the jury wasn’t sequestered and so they saw the biased coverage and were likely influenced by that coverage or seeing riots and threats of riots around the country. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on the jury to come to a certain decision.
A jury is supposed to make its determination based on the subject matter and expert witnesses, not go home and watch the news and form their opinions that way. So no, it wasn’t fair.
How would you characterize public opinion towards police today?
I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’m middle of the road—not an old timer, but not brand new. But even in 15 years, things have changed. There is a general narrative that demonizes law enforcement.
In my opinion, the anti-cop narrative began with the Obama administration. He made negative law enforcement comments, and in controversial cases would show up to the deceased’s funerals (which were later justified as lawful shootings). The Dallas five were killed under Obama and he didn’t show any respect toward them.
Trevor Noah recently said of Derek Chauvin, “We’re not dealing with bad apples, we’re dealing with a rotten tree.” What do you say to that?
It’s funny when the media wants to talk about a rotten tree. The irony there is amazing. Big media talking about a tree being corrupt? Give me a break.
Do you think that policing in America is systemically racist?
Ha. Absolutely not. No.
In your experience has policing become more difficult since George Floyd’s death?
Yes, but we’ve been on this slippery slope since the start of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement. That’s where things really started to take a serious turn. We were already nose diving, and Floyd’s death is just more fuel to the fire.
All these cases involve a false narrative of police racism, from Trayvon Martin to Rayshard Brooks to George Floyd, causing tension and a divide between law-enforcement and the community. People want us to solve their problems, but they don’t want us to defend ourselves or the community while doing it.
They want us to be able to talk it out with everybody, but the reality is we can’t always do that. If people shoot us, we’re going to shoot back. That’s what happened with the Breonna Taylor case. Somehow people are upset about that.
And facts don’t matter. Even though the false Michael Brown “hands up don’t shoot” narrative was proven false, I still can’t drive around the city without someone eyeballing me and putting their hands up and saying “don’t shoot” while I drive past.
How has this false narrative about police changed your job? Do your fellow officers worry that as a result they wouldn’t get a fair trial if they’re in a situation that escalates?
Some things have not changed. People have never wanted to be arrested. They didn’t before and they don’t now. So that’s no different.
But what used to concern us was bringing in the suspect safely and prioritizing how we’re going to defend ourselves if need be, and get home to our family. But now it’s, “I don’t wanna go to jail. And if this dude has an underlying medical condition I don’t know about and he decides to fight or he is on drugs or he strokes out on me, a jury might send me to jail for this.” It changes the kinds of calls we respond to.
So we are now at a point where we have to focus only on responding to emergencies. Because most of the things people call us for are not emergencies, they are inconveniences. We used to be more than happy to respond, but the problem is a lot of times, it’s criminals who are causing the inconvenience.
So if, for example, we get a complaint about people speeding down someone’s street, we used to gladly go. But when we do a traffic stop, we don’t know who we are pulling over; they might have a warrant, they might have committed a crime, they might not have a license, it could be a DUI. Now if he decides to escalate because he doesn’t want to go to jail, our badge could be on the line just for a speeding call.
Or we get calls from businesses where a guy has been passed out in their bathroom for three hours after shooting heroin. It’s bad for business so they call us and say, “Hey, we don’t want to confront this guy, can you come do it for us?”
We used to gladly take those calls, but often the addict has warrants and they don’t want to go to jail. If it escalates, sometimes the business turns around and backstabs us. So now we respond if your safety is in question but otherwise, unfortunately, we can’t risk our lives or our careers or jail time over someone’s inconvenience.
Each agency has its own subculture, but this region’s morale is generally crappy. A lot of officers are leaving. We don’t have anybody, anybody applying to be officers here, so we are lowering standards to get numbers up.
The academy has lowered their physical fitness standards and we have dropped ours completely. Now if you’ve got a pulse and some experience? We will take you. Because that’s how bad we are hurting for bodies. Of course, the lowering of standards does not increase the odds that things are going to be done right. So it will perpetuate the problems.
But even before we had to lower standards, we were still struggling. The public thinks that we are ninjas, that we are all MMA fighters. For a while that belief was helpful because it instilled a bit of healthy fear, of not wanting to mess with us.
But the reality is that most police officers have a YMCA degree (not to knock on the YMCA) but it’s like they went to one little seminar on self-defense and that’s kind of it. The level of training we get is so subpar compared to the demands.
Not only that, but there are important and serious limitations on our interactions with suspects. As an officer, I have a responsibility, we as a police force have a responsibility, to limit the amount of force to get someone into custody. But if they are overcoming my efforts, I can escalate my use of force, within reason, to effectuate that arrest.
The Chauvin case is, in my opinion, simply that: a typical officer struggling to control a large, uncooperative human. His death sucks, it sucks. I wish we were better trained. I wish Chauvin was better trained. Could his death have been avoided? Yeah, I think so.
In our precinct, we pitch and brainstorm ways that we can get better training. Unfortunately, “defund the police” is a movement, so our funding has already been slashed. There’s no money for classes or overtime for us to go.
So they’re basically saying, “We wish you guys were ninjas,” and we’re saying “OK, send us to ninja school.” And they’re like, “No we’re not going to pay for that. We’re just gonna put you in jail when you don’t meet our expectations even though we won’t give you the training you need.”
What would you tell America about this moment in time and your job?
I think that it’s important for people to know that we still have a heart to have people’s backs. There isn’t a cop I know who isn’t willing to lay their life on their line for someone else in a life-or-death situation. But what we’re not willing to do is put ourselves or our careers or our families on the line for people’s inconveniences.
I’m happy to do that as a luxury as long as we have community support. But if we don’t have your support, and you call us about your neighbor’s loud music? No. Go talk to the neighbor yourself. Or buy some ear plugs.