Gary Lerude

March 14, 2021

Remembering George Floyd

The City of Minneapolis will pay $27 million to the family of George Floyd, the Black man who died after being handcuffed by police and held on the ground by officer Derek Chauvin, Chauvin's knee wedged in Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was stopped by police because a convenience store clerk claimed he used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

The same day as this announcement, potential jurors were being interviewed for the trial of Chauvin, accused of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder for his role in the death of Floyd. (CNN explains the charges.)

The $27 million from Minneapolis is a settlement in the lawsuit filed by Floyd's family, claiming his rights were violated by the police, and officers were not adequately trained or disciplined. Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing the family, said the settlement is the largest amount reached before trial in a civil rights lawsuit against the police, according to The New York Times. I suspect the city admitted no wrongdoing, yet the amount implies the city judged it would not win the civil suit had it gone to trial.

This settlement doesn't mean Chauvin will be convicted, as the criminal trial will require the jury to determine whether Chauvin's actions that day met the legal definitions of the murder and manslaughter charges. In so many of these cases, police officers are not charged or are acquitted because their conduct is deemed "reasonable" or "appropriate" or "lawful" under existing law.

George Floyd's death, like so many other Black deaths, is tragic, that killing by the police is usually within the law and considered reasonable. Our society must develop a higher standard for police conduct, one that limits force to be proportional to the offense.

The punishment for passing a counterfeit bill — assuming the store clerk's claim was accurate — should not lead to the death of a man presumed to be innocent, with the police acting as judge and jury.

$27 million for a $20 bill is a bit disproportionate.