Since George Floyd was killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers, police departments and elected officials across the U.S. have responded with unusual swiftness to allegations of police misconduct, reports the Wall Street Journal. Disciplinary action against officers has surged during the national wave of protests, as cities and police departments fire officers, place them on leave and bring criminal charges. Within 24 hours after Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired four officers who failed to intervene. By contrast, the New York City Police Department waited five years before firing the officer who locked Eric Garner in a chokehold in a fatal 2014 encounter.
In Atlanta, two police officers were fired May 31 after body-camera footage captured them breaking the window of a car and tasing two college students who were out past a curfew. The mayor of Louisville fired the police chief on Monday after two officers failed to turn on body cameras during the fatal shooting that morning of a black business owner. Some unions and police advocates have pushed back against disciplinary actions, saying officers have faced violent attacks by protesters and are being unfairly scapegoated. The explosive public reaction may owe to the gruesome nature of the video of Floyd’s killing. It shows “the slow-moving lynching of a man in public” by an officer wearing “a look of indifference,” said Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff of the Center for Policing Equity, a law-enforcement reform think tank. Barry Friedman of the New York University law school Policing Project said many policing problems are systemic and not about individual events or bad apples. “We try to fix policing on the back end, with punishment for things that have gone wrong,” he said. “It doesn’t work very well.”