A Quickie: The Image of Officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd’s Neck Haunts Me

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found the testimony from the first week of the George Floyd murder trial to be excruciating. Listening to the witnesses recount their shock and horror of watching Floyd be slowly and gruesomely murdered right before their disbelieving eyes traumatized me as much as it re-traumatized them.

This week features the police officers who condemned Chauvin’s actions and clearly stated that it was against best police practices in general and Minneapolis police policy in specific has just left me pissed off, especially considering that in Chauvin’s 19 years on the force, he’s had 18 complaints for use of excessive force and other instances of misconduct filed against him. All this police testimony has just pissed me off because it lays bare what a rouge officer Chauvin was and how little the city did to stop him.

For the past two weeks, I’ve debated whether to offer any commentary or analysis of the case. There is lots to write about grief, survivor’s guilt, secondary victimization or trauma, PTSD, and retraumatization. There is lots that can be written about Floyd and his struggles with drug addiction and Chauvin’s psychiatric diagnosis. I’m just not sure that I’m up to the task emotionally.

The one thing that I feel compelled to offer is commentary on this, by now, iconic photo:

This image haunts me. I cannot get the expression on Chauvin’s face and his posture out of my mind. When I see his face I see an expression of pride and defiance. He knows exactly what he is doing. He’s doing in part because there is an audience begging him not to. He’s proud of doing it in spite of their pleas. He’s enjoying murdering Floyd and the onlooker’s reaction to it.

His hands are in his pockets! Look ma! No hands! The boast of every boy as he attempts some act of daring do. He’s showing us how little effort it takes to kill someone. He’s showing us how casual it is.

He has no remorse, no shame, and no guilt.

His eighteen years of commiting police brutality tells me that he is life-course persistent antisocial behavior. In our common vernacular, he’s an incorrigible psychopath. And, he’s not going to change. There is no reforming the bastard. The system has left him to his own devices for too long. His sadism has reified and corroded his soul.

The other thing that will haunt me from that trial is Darnella Frazier tearfully explaining that she apologizes to Floyd for not having done more to save his life. It breaks my heart knowing the pain that she and the other survivors will live with as they struggle to forgive themselves for not having done the impossible and stopped Chauvin from murdering Floyd.

I feel guilty for not having been there. To cope with the horror of police officer slowly squeezing the life out Floyd, I tell myself that had I been there, I would’ve stopped it. I fantasize about how I could’ve done it. My favorite is leading the gathered group in a loud kneeling prayer trying to shame the officers into stopping. Maybe singing “Amazing Grace.” I doubt anyone could’ve dissuaded Chauvin and the other officers from their murderous task that day. I would love to hear your fantasies about how you could’ve stopped it or the reactions that you’re having to the trial and his murder.

Join the email list so you don’t miss any of the fascinating psychological analysis of current events.

Image Attribution

“George Floyd” by chaddavis.photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

9 replies »

  1. I can’t help thinking that I would have tackled the officer to get him off George..being shot or tazed would have been worth it to save a life. then I would have sued the crap out of the racist bastard!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Suze!

      I’ve spent more time than is healthy thinking about this. This was my thought, too, but, apparently, the officers surrounding Chauvin were defending against this very tactic. I keep replaying the whole thing over in my mind and can’t arrive at anything other than the extraordinary — ramming a police car with a car. Throwing water bottles at the police. Molotov cocktails.

      The feeling of absolute helplessness while watching this happen must be maddening for the people were there if it is having this kind of effect on us just watching on video. The whole thing is just insane given that it was so obvious what was going to happen and yet there was nothing anyone could do to stop Chauvin.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t watched the trial, just heard the reporting on NPR. Although the number of police officers testifying against him is systemically amazing, I wonder if it is not in some degree an indication of his bad reputation on the force. I also have long wondered about the degree to which personal animus might have been involved. Those two men had history. The prosecution seems to be avoiding that subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      There connection has been so poorly covered that I couldn’t be sure how reliable it was. it seems like if it were, it would be more prominent in the coverage.

      I had read a study of domestic violence years ago in which police and prosecutors aggressively prosecuted first offenders. I think it was in Pittsburgh, but I could be wrong. The outcome was that the abusers were less likely to abuse again. Finding these studies again proves to be very difficult, though, so I’m hesitant to use it as support. However, it does suggest that some offenders can be dissuaded if you make the cost of the first offense high enough. It seems like it would affect cops similarly.


      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a likelihood that having a first offense officially noticed is more apt to discourage a repeat than it being ignored. In the case of domestic abuse, the messages to the victim are far different also.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Admittedly this is an area where I don’t know much. I’m not sure what happens after a citizen files a complaint about police behavior. If the department treats it as a pain in the ass and routine, then the message sent is that it can be ignored. If it is made a bigger deal of and results in an investigation and other punishments and a policy of x-number of confirmed complaints and you’re out, then you might could see an effect on police behavior. Also, if individual officers can be held financially responsible for the civil damages found against them for their behavior, then they might curb some of it.

        A true antisocial personality disorder with good executive functioning will see it as a challenge to get around; with, executive dysfunction, they will continue to offend until stopped.

        I think there is plenty of room for police reform here. And, it is badly needed.


        Liked by 1 person

      • I have the impression that police departments tend to try to bury complaints in bureaucratic process unless the complaint is made very publicly and with media engagement.

        Liked by 1 person

Howdy y'all! Comments are always welcome... well, almost always. No sense in tempting fate, amirite?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.