A report that Los Angeles Police Department officers circulated a photo of George Floyd with the words “you take my breath away” in a Valentine-like format has prompted an internal investigation and drawn blistering condemnation as authorities in Minnesota prepare for the trial of the police officer charged for Floyd’s murder.
LAPD chief Michel Moore said on Saturday that investigators will 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.
“Our investigation is to determine the accuracy of the allegations while also reinforcing our zero tolerance for anything with racist views,” Moore said.
Floyd, a Black man, died last May after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee on his neck as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” His death launched massive, worldwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Floyd’s family, condemned the officers.
“This is beyond insult on top of injury — it’s injury on top of death. 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,” Crump said in a statement released via Twitter.
MEDIA ALERT: @AttorneyCrump releases a statement on the George Floyd image that was reportedly circulated throughout @LAPDHQ. This is injury on top of death and indicative of a much larger problem within the culture of the LAPD. pic.twitter.com/7XiM3mNjEu
— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) February 15, 2021
“We demand that everyone who was involved is held accountable for their revolting behavior and that an apology be issued to the family immediately.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon condemned the image, saying he would investigate the matter to see if any of his cases “may have been compromised by biased police work”.
The board of directors for the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement that the union “repudiates this abhorrent image” and that any officer who “feels the need to be part of any online group that engages in, promotes, and/or celebrates this type of activity should quickly rethink their career choice because they clearly don’t have the judgment, nor temperament, to be a member of law enforcement”.
The LAPD investigation takes place as Minnesota authorities prepare for Chauvin’s trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death case.
Judge Peter Cahill ruled last month that Chauvin would stand trial on his own starting March 8, dismissing appeals for a delay and to be tried with former officers Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who face charges of aiding and abetting murder in relation to Floyd’s death.
The three other former officers will stand trial together on August 23. Cahill cited a lack of courtroom space for proper COVID-19 protocols in starting their trial in the summer.
Local courts are not set to restart jury trials before March 15. For Chauvin’s trial, Cahill granted an exception.
Chauvin was ready to plead guilty to third-degree murder, but former Attorney General William Barr blocked the deal because it was too early in the investigation, The Associated Press news agency and The New York Times reported.
Minnesota lawmakers on Monday pulled a proposal from Governor Tim Walz to create a $35m fund to bolster security during Chauvin’s trial.
Leaders in Minnesota’s House admitted they lacked enough votes to pass it. The Republican-controlled Senate voted earlier on Monday to allow the state to garnish Minneapolis state aid to ensure security costs get paid.
Local, state and federal authorities have been preparing for demonstrations and potential civil unrest for months.
They fear a repeat of the violence that erupted after Black Lives Matter protests began in Minneapolis and spread worldwide, leading to a national reckoning over race.