Rep. Val Demings to MN cops: "What the hell are you doing?"

Rep. Val Demings is a former law enforcement officer. She, like everyone else and their brother, is weighing in on the death of George Floyd. From that experience comes a little different perspective than most.

The congresswoman from Florida hired on with the Orlando Police Department at the age of 26, after briefly working as a social worker. She rose through the ranks to become the first female police chief of the Orlando Police Department. Penning an op-ed published in the Washington Post, she focused on not her own skin color, as an African-American woman, but of the color blue, as a former cop. She asks the police in Minneapolis a basic question, “As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?”

That is exactly what most people watching the video asked. It doesn’t matter if the viewer is white, black, conservative, liberal, whatever. People have come together to condemn the behavior of police at the scene. It’s hard to listen to George Floyd begging for his life to be spared and watching the police officer’s knee on the back of his throat as he lies face down and in handcuffs.

Floyd, a Houston native, moved to Minneapolis about six years ago to start fresh after a life that included brushes with the law. About 8:00 p.m. he went to buy food and the store clerk reported a “forgery in progress” to the police. It involved Floyd passing off an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. During the attempted arrest, even the store clerk came out and plead with the cops to stop.

Rep. Demings calls on law enforcement officers to use their brains – their “most powerful weapon” – and notes that Floyd posed no threat to the police.

When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve. Remember, law enforcement needs that trust just as the public does. Think before you act! Remember, your most powerful weapon is the brain the good Lord gave you. Use it!

We all know that the level of force must meet the level of resistance. We all can see that there was absolutely zero resistance from George Floyd. He posed no threat to anyone, especially law enforcement.

She addresses the fact that the officers must be held accountable. Demings offers suggestions about training and recruiting programs and she slips in a mention that “you get what you pay for” with police pay. She also goes on to say those police officers witnessing others abusing their power must speak up against it.

As a nation, we must conduct a serious review of hiring standards and practices, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, pay and benefits (remember, you get what you pay for), early warning programs, and recruit training programs. Remember, officers who train police recruits are setting the standard for what is acceptable and unacceptable on the street.

Frankly, I am surprised it took Rep. Demings this long to get her opinion published. Those of us who watched the impeachment trial in the Senate remember that she reminded us on a daily basis of her former career in law enforcement. She is now said to be on the shortlist of Joe Biden’s vice-presidential choices. She’d fulfill the pressure from African-American leadership for a black woman vice-president and she might help Biden get out the vote in Florida. She’s 63 years old so she would add some youth to the Biden ticket, compared to his advanced age.

Whether Demings makes the final cut with Biden or not, she’s getting some more time in the national spotlight now by using her former career as a guide to her words now. I feel for cops in general and support them as they do very difficult work. With continued instances like this, though, something has to be done.