Psychopaths

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.

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Image Attribution

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

25 replies »

  1. Hi Jack, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, it is deeply appreciated! It certainly seems as if this event has shined an important light on the situation of police violence (even if it should have been recognised already) in America and the possibility of change seems greater than ever. I particularly appreciated how you referred to reforming before we lapse back into our old ways or traditions. There definitely seems to be a wave of momentum which must be utilised by law-makers before it runs out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Semion!

      What is policing like in Australia? How does it differ from that in the US? I know that there are racial issues with the Aboriginal community there, but I don’t know much about it. I’d be interested in learning more.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jack!

        Policing in Australia is ‘generally’ very good. The training process is thorough, in fact, most applicants are encouraged to complete tertiary education in police training (a 3 year university degree), before 24-weeks of intensive training and 12 months of on-the-job training. I think the amount of time spent ensuring candidates are qualified and educated makes a significant difference. What are the training requirements for police officers in America?

        There are still issues with the police in areas of discretion. This has led to problems in the Aboriginal community as you have noted, with excessive force a key problem. Also, issues surrounding sexual assault and juvenile strip searches have also caused numerous problems. However, not as serious as the use of deadly force by police in America.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Simeon!

          Policing is very decentralized in the US with over 18,000 individual agencies each with their own requirements. However, most require a secondary education certificate and somewhere around 21 weeks of police academy training. There are continuing training requirements unique to each agency often including use of various restraints, lethal and non-lethal force, and implicit bias. I had heard from a former police officer on one of the news talk shows that police training focuses on immediate and complete compliance with all orders and if orders are not immediately and completely complied with some kind of force is needed. The biggest problem is that police culture dictates that Black and Brown people are unpredictable violent criminals. Police generally approach them as such. Couple that with the proliferation of guns in our country and police are prone to shoot Black and Brown people first and ask questions later. That they can take heavily armed white people into custody without shooting them tells you everything you need to know about the options they can exercise. The excesses of our police stems in large part from what we call qualified immunity limiting the charges that can be brought against them. Without the boundaries that possible charges brings to behavior, you get people who act with impunity and abuse their power. And, that is policing in America.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Jack! Thank you again for your very informative message! You’ve provided extensive details which are very helpful for me in growing my own knowledge – much appreciated! I was particularly amazed by your statement that there are over 18,000 individual agencies for policing in America. Australia has 8. One for each state/territory. There are divisions within those agencies, but it means that the requirements are consistent across each State. I know that America is much larger than Australia in terms of population, but I certainly feel that’s a key difference.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Simeon!

              Decentralization is a key feature in the governance of America. We call it states’ rights. The Constitution limits the areas that the federal government can address. Everything else is handled by the states. One of the reasons for this is racism. The idea of states’ rights allowed slave holding states to be free of federal interference until the whole system became untenable and the Civil War broke out. Even then, though, states’ rights has been used to justify racist state laws limiting the freedoms of our Black, Brown, and Native American populations. That worked until the 1960’s when the federal government stepped in to guarantee civil and voting rights.

              Racist Southern politicians have always been conservative. They joined the Democratic Party before, during, and after the Civil War because it wasn’t the Republican Party, which ended slavery. Since then, the Democratic Party has become more liberal and really jumped leftward with Roosevelt and the Great Depression. Truman integrated the Armed Services and the Democratic Party was increasingly committed to civil rights. They always had to appease the Southern racist conservatives, though, to keep their votes in Congress.

              When Johnson passed the civil and voting rights legislations in the mid-1960’s, the Dixiecrats as they had become to be called started to jump ship. They saw that it was a losing cause in the Democratic Party. Nixon actively courted them in his 1968 election and Reagan accelerated it during his 1980 election.Since then, the GOP has been committed to racist oppressive politics, and support for policing has been a big part of it.

              Policing in America is really rooted in the slave patrols which searched for run away slaves and returned them to their masters. It has always been focused on keeping Black people down and assumes that Black people are inherently criminally minded and motivated.

              You really cannot understand America without understanding our racial politics and beliefs, norms, etc.

              Back in February — our Black History month — I wrote a series of articles I called, The Civil War Never Ended. The last one featured an interview of Heather McGee about her recently published book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” You might find it illuminating to say the least. I’ll include the URL below.

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              https://thepsyoflifeblog.com/2021/02/20/sum-of-us/

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jack! I’m interested in what your initial emotions were immediately after the judgement? And how you would describe your emotions now on the matter? I am from Australia, and have struggled over the past months to gain a deep understanding of the issues at play, due to the contrasting perceptions of law enforcement between our two countries. I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂 Take care

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Simeon!

      I was relieved and elated after hearing the judgment. Then, I slowly grew more sad because George Floyd’s death didn’t seem worth it. It was like the fight to get Chauvin prosecuted meant that any grief you’d have for George was put on hold. And, since George was a complete stranger, the intensity of the fight to get Chauvin prosecuted translated into more intense feelings for George and his life. We really got to know him and his family over the year since his death.

      I still grieve for Darnella Frazier, too. She’s the girl who filmed the murder and wept on the stand recounting how she apologized to George late at night for not doing more to stop his murder. God, that just breaks my heart. That kind of regret and guilt just gets to me.

      I’ve thought about blogging about the complexity of grief. George’s death, the protests, the trial all contributed to the intensity of our grief for him specifically. But, our grief for him also activates the grief we’ve felt for all of the other victims of police shootings, the grief we have for the 560,000+ #COVID19 dead, and any grief ro our personal loses. It all wraps up into one and feeds off of each other. It makes it a unique emotional moment in our history.

      Since the trial began we’ve had five police shooting of PoC’s — several of them children — that are much more ambiguous in their circumstances. Many liberals are treating the officers much more harshly than they would’ve had it not been for the Chauvin trial. Most of us are just assuming that the police were wrong in those shootings, too. I struggle with those feelings trying to sort out whether the shootings were justified or not. I may be blogging about that topic, too.

      One of the talking pundits on the talking pundit shows opined that American police training focuses on compliance — immediate total compliance with all orders given. If compliance isn’t total and complete, then force is required. It is a very sobering and concerning thought, but comports with my experience with American police.

      I think for many white Americans, we’ve been shocked by the realization of how barbarously PoC have been treated by our police and, if we are willing to admit it, by our system. Now, if we can act to reform ourselves before we lapse back into our compliance and neglect of our Black, Brown, and immigrant communities.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Like

  3. 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.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 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.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      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.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

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