Why policing is broken

Both Garner and Floyd died of asphyxia from being sat or knelt upon by police officers with long abuse histories. In both cases, numerous other officers and/or medical personnel refused to stop this clear abuse, or even administer aid long after the suspect had been subdued and stopped breathing.

Protesters today are asking what prompts such apparently senseless cruelty, wondering especially how it is possible that officers like Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis could continue kneeling on a defenseless man’s neck knowing he’s being filmed. He did so knowing that international protests erupted the last time police repeatedly ignored cries of “I can’t breathe” on video.

As I learned through years of talking to brutality victims and police alike, and by following cases like Garner’s through the courts, episodes like the Floyd killing happen thanks to a variety of interlocking bureaucratic and political imperatives. The individual racism of officers (and the structural racism underpinning police departments) is clearly a major part of the picture. But there are more immediately fixable problems at play as well. Here are four troubling logistical reasons these tragedies keep recurring…