Misperceptions must be priority in police discussion

Leave aside the political correctness that has resulted in universal condemnation of all law enforcement personnel, for a moment. In the interest of saving lives, let us return at least briefly to using our common sense.

As The Associated Press reports, a significant number of officers, deputies, troopers and agents may not understand the seriousness of making it difficult for someone to breathe. Really.

Under no circumstances can what happened to George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis be rationalized, of course. After being arrested on a relatively minor, non-violent charge, he was forced to the pavement, where a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was killed, after pleading several times, “I can’t breathe.”

Five Minneapolis officers have been charged in Floyd’s death.

Outrage over their behavior is justified. It has prompted a nationwide discussion — among those involved in law enforcement, let it be noted — about treatment of people in confrontations with police.

Correcting a misperception among some law officers needs to a priority in that discussion.

Apparently, according to the AP, some people think that if a person in distress can talk — to say, for example, “I can’t breathe” — he or she is not in danger.

Derek Chauvin, the policeman charged with murdering Floyd, responded to his pleas with, “Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.” Another officer at the scene remarked, “He’s talking, so he can breathe.”

Health care professionals agree that even people able to beg for their lives can be in severe, life-threatening distress. Clearly, Floyd was.

Again, there is no excuse whatsoever for what happened to Floyd.

But just as clearly, many law enforcement personnel need better education on how to handle such situations. Local, state and federal officials need to ensure it is provided ­– and the guidance is followed.

No one should die because a law officer misreads the meaning of, “I can’t breathe.”


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