The Los Angeles district attorney and the police department are investigating after a police officer reported that an image of George Floyd had been made into a mock-Valentine meme featuring the words “You take my breath away” and circulated among officers.
The district attorney, George Gascón, decried the reported meme of Floyd, who was Black and killed by police in Minneapolis last spring.
Gascón posted on Twitter: “Celebrating the murder of a Black man at the hands of police demonstrates a profound absence of humanity. The mock valentine underscores problematic and racist perceptions of law enforcement culture regarding the communities we are sworn to protect and serve.”
Gascón hailed LAPD leadership for swiftly investigating and also tweeted that his office “will be looking into this matter to determine if the integrity of any of our cases may have been compromised by biased police work”.
The LAPD police chief, Michel Moore, earlier announced an internal examination of the situation and said investigators would try to determine how the image may have come into the workplace and who may have been involved, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Moore said the officer who made the complaint would be interviewed on Monday and added: “Our investigation is to determine the accuracy of the allegations while also reinforcing our zero tolerance for anything with racist views.”
Floyd, a father from Texas, was killed last May. A Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as he lay where officers had wrestled him during an attempted arrest. Floyd cried out and repeatedly said: “I can’t breathe.”
As three officers looked on and members of the public begged them to release Floyd, the killing was captured on video by a bystander.
The civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is involved with the Floyd case, said on Monday that the family is “understandably outraged”.
Crump added: “The type of callousness and cruelty within a person’s soul needed to do something like this evades comprehension – and is indicative of a much larger problem within the culture of the LAPD. We demand that everyone who was involved is held accountable for their revolting behavior and that an apology be issued to the family immediately.”
Derek Chauvin, the now ex-officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, is due to go on trial next month on charges relating to murder. The other officers will stand trial later.
The death sparked protests across the US and the world over racial injustice and police brutality. The global response revitalized the Black Lives Matter movement, which demands an end to killings of Black Americans, especially young men, by law enforcement or those in adjacent roles, such as the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 by a neighborhood watch manager.
In 2020, protesters also highlighted the shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and others, amid pressure for a reckoning over systemic racism in the US.
Calls grew for public funding to be shifted away from police departments and towards better social, educational and mental health services.
If the investigation in California confirms LAPD officers were circulating Floyd’s image, Moore said “people will find my wrath”.
The Times said Moore also confirmed that his department was investigating two anonymous Instagram accounts reportedly linked to department personnel, including one called the “Blue Line Mafia”.
A pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement has sprung up on the political right, in answer to the rise of Black Lives Matter.