Is the $27 million civil settlement for George Floyd's family fair?


Fact Box

  • On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African American man, died under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin after Floyd lost consciousness.
  • On May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. On June 3, the charges against Chauvin were upgraded to second-degree murder. Chauvin is currently under trial; as of Friday, March 19, thirteen jurors have been selected out of fourteen. It is scheduled for March 29. 
  • Floyd’s two autopsies, one from the medical examiner and the second, an independent examiner hired by the family, revealed death by “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” and “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” The report showed that he had fentanyl and meth in his system, as well as a heart condition. 
  • Floyd’s family agreed to a $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis on Friday, March 12. The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said the amount was the “largest pretrial settlement” for a civil rights dispute. A sum of $500,000 will go to the southern Minneapolis neighborhood where sculptures and murals stand in Floyd’s honor. 
  • In 2019, Caucasian Justine Damond’s family settled on a $20 million compensation after her untimely death in Minneapolis.

Elizabeth (Yes)

If some good can come from George Floyd's death last year, hopefully, this week's $27 million settlement with his family by the city of Minneapolis is a start. Obviously, the money, in some small way, helps to atone for the loss of Floyd. However, one can hope that the record payment may also have long-term effects on policing across the country. 

As Floyd's family stated, it goes without saying that they would rather still have George's presence than have the money. But as it stands, since they can't have him back, it's right that the family is compensated. Placing a dollar value on someone's life is never easy. And while some may try to argue that paying $27 million to care for Floyd's daughter is too much, it's simply inexcusable that her father was taken away from her--especially in light of Minneapolis' shielding of dishonorable officer Chauvin for so many years

The family said that a 'portion' of the money would benefit the black-owned businesses in the area near where Floyd was killed. While it appears only $500,000 is currently slated for this, one can hope that amount will be stewarded well and possibly even expanded over time. Hopefully, the money allocated for George's daughter will also be managed well and genuinely provide her benefit for the duration of her life. 

As far as potential police reform, optimistically, $27 million will signal to other cities that it's finally time to get serious about ending qualified immunity for police and thereby enhancing responsibility and restraint on the part of those charged with the duty to protect and serve. 

Bill (No)

It’s obscene that George Floyd’s family is getting $27 million for the death of their deceased career criminal. Floyd’s main contribution to society was getting arrested nine times on various charges involving drugs, theft, and a violent home invasion. But he had the good fortune to die while in police custody and have the media and BLM spin it as a racially motivated case of police brutality resulting in a murder charge against one of the arresting officers. In a perverse twist of the bizarre police arrest of a resistant criminal, George Floyd has been elevated in death to martyr status, something his life did not merit. 

At the time of his arrest by Minneapolis police on May 25th, 2020, Floyd was a jobless former bouncer who was reported to have passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Toxicology reports show that Floyd had an amount of fentanyl in his bloodstream that would be enough to kill him three times over. Floyd also had methamphetamine in his system. Most notably, both fentanyl and methamphetamine have side effects involving respiratory system distress or failure. Coincidentally, Floyd also had preexisting conditions of coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. Most damning to the case for his family’s $27 million award for damages is that Floyd’s autopsy revealed no physical injuries that could have caused his death.

Instead of undeservedly enriching George Floyd’s family for his death, the Minneapolis City Council should have chosen to send a message about its commitment to ensure fair policing by investing in conflict management training and de-escalation techniques, as well as methods for effectively subduing resistant criminal suspects.

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