3 cops watched a fellow officer slowly kill George Floyd. Here's why so many officers don't intervene.
San Diego police blocked the street in downtown San Diego, California on May 31, 2020 as protesters gathered to protest George Floyd's death.
Ariana Drehsler / AFP via Getty
The video of George Floyd's deadly arrest has led many to wonder why the three other officers involved didn't intervene to keep Derek Chauvin from kneeling on his neck.
Insider spoke to police culture experts, including former officials, who explained the standards that allow some police officers to use violence and others to allow it without reporting.
Officials who intervene or report on their colleagues are often ostracized and trustworthy of the group questioned.
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What worried many people about George Floyd's death is that the three other local officials did not intervene.
The video of the fatal arrest shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes while two other officers held the black man's back and legs down and a fourth officer stood guard.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, while the three other officers were accused of supporting and favoring second-degree murder.
Clockwise from top left: Former police officers from Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.
Minnesota Department of Corrections and Hennepin County Sheriff's Office / Handout via AP Photo and Reuters
The lawyers of two of the officials tried to explain their actions by saying that they were only on the job for a few days and could not challenge Chauvin, her training officer and a 19-year-old veteran of the squad.
But there is a well-documented culture in the police department that may also explain why they didn't speak.
Insider spoke to police behavior experts who explained how this culture enables some officers to use violence and prevents others from interfering with or reporting on this behavior.
A disturbing pattern
According to John Kleinig, a police ethics expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, police officers are often "outlawed" if they intervene, if a fellow police officer uses excessive force, or if they report another city crossing border officer.
Kleinig says that raping another officer or just saying bad behavior can lead to questions about the officer's trustworthiness.
Trust is particularly important in policing, where officers must feel that someone has their back in dangerous situations, said Kleinig.
Frank Serpico, right, testifies before a police corruption hearing in 1971.
Jim Garrett / NY Daily News via Getty Images
Perhaps the most famous case is that of Frank Serpico, a New York police officer who became a pariah in the 1960s and 70s for whistling about corruption in the NYPD.
He left the troop in 1971 when he was shot and killed during a drug failure and his colleagues did not immediately call for an ambulance. Serpico's story was transformed into the Oscar-nominated film "Serpico" with Al Pacino in the title role in 1973.
Floyd's death has also highlighted a recent case that illustrates the police culture of silence.
The Buffalo Common Council recently passed a resolution asking the New York Attorney General to investigate the release of Cariol Horne in 2008, a black cop who was punished for jumping on her white partner's back when he arrested a black suspect two years earlier.
Horne was reprimanded for the incident that she had endangered her colleague's life and dismissed her one year before she received her pension.
The stranglehold officer was later sentenced to four months in prison in connection with an unrelated case, accused of excessive violence in the arrest of four black teenagers in 2009.
Cariol Horne was released by the Buffalo police in 2008 for intervening when her white partner put a suspect in a stranglehold.
How the system works
There is also the case of Paul Manning, a police officer in Ontario, Canada, who tweeted on June 12 that he had been punished for reporting on a colleague he had slapped a minor in the face from, apparently no other reason than the fact that she had called him "a name".
After his report, Manning said he was punished for not communicating with his colleague. He said he was then moved away from his team and the officials refused to work with him or offer support when he responded to calls.
"My assessment this year reflected incompetence and unworthiness of being a police officer. Any position or course I applied for was rejected. I continued #whistleblow until the boss told me, 'You really have no concept of brotherhood, right? '"he tweeted.
June 12, 2020
Reply to @mobinfiltrator
There was blood everywhere. The boy was handcuffed and the officer asked me, "What should we arrest him for?" "What has he done?" I inquired. "He called me a name." he said. After trying to convince me for 20 minutes, we should invent a crime he had to let the child go. "We need
To take notes, make our story clear, ”he then told me. I don't need help writing what happened. I found a quiet place and wrote the facts. As I wrote, I was accompanied by a female A / Sgt who knew this officer. She spent 20 minutes convincing me that this kid was a "shit sack".
4:20 p.m. - June 12, 2020
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June 12, 2020
Reply to @mobinfiltrator
My notes should "reflect the danger he poses". I was disgusted. We don't behave that way. I went to the train driver and made a statement for the attack that I had witnessed. An investigation has been initiated that should have been forwarded to @SIUOntario. The investigator
asked me questions like "how do you know his nose was broken?" and "Where did you get your medical studies from?" (Seriously?) Then there was the result, a call from the principal, while I was at home. "Paul, our investigation has been completed and you have been found guilty of misconduct
4:20 p.m. - June 12, 2020
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Manning told insiders that he had decided to tell his story after hearing the public debate after Floyd's death. He said some people used a common metaphor to defend the police: not all police officers were bad and the perpetrators in cases like Floyd's were just "bad apples".
"I just want to show how the system works," he said. "To show that good apples don't have a way to report. They haven't taken security measures to protect them from reprisals."
The 'Blue Wall of Silence'
Kleinig said he believed there was something called "Blue Wall of Silence" involved in Floyd's arrest.
The term refers to the actions of officers who do not report bad behavior by colleagues, even in cases of police brutality. It is a common feature of police culture.
This extends to not questioning an official's use of force during an arrest, Kleinig said.
"You do not intervene because this indicates that you are not really one of us. You are an outsider, we cannot trust you. You could turn against us," said Kleinig.
Protesters hold up pictures of Floyd in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 2020.
Ira L. Black / Corbis via Getty Images
Thomas Nolan, a 27-year-old veteran from the Boston Police Department, who is now a professor of sociology, agreed that the blue wall of silence prevailed in many police stations, but said what happened in Minneapolis was "unimaginable" and actually a violation of the police code.
He said that while police officers almost never rat each other, they should feel free to intervene if they believe that another police officer is wrong.
"What happened outside on the street shouldn't have happened because part of the cop culture is that even though we don't talk about or guess about someone's use of violence, we would never do anything to another man gets in trouble, "said Nolan.
"Chauvin did this by using excessive force in a public place. He put these three other police officers at risk, and it is a serious violation of the code, as the fact that the other three were fired shows.
"I am surprised and continue to be surprised and outraged that someone didn't just go over there and pull that guy off given the resistance - or lack of resistance - that Mr. Floyd offered to the officials," he said.
A memorial to Floyd on 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the place where he was arrested, on June 4, 2020.
Steel Brooks / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
"Not what Robert Peel imagined"
Kleinig, Nolan, and Manning listed some possible changes that could help address this culture of silence and prevent deaths like Floyd's in the future.
"Ultimately, we need to think seriously about redefining the entire role that US police officers have played in cities in the past," said Nolan.
When asked about defusing the police - an option promoted by demonstrators and some city councils that distribute some of the police funding to other community organizations - Nolan said, "I think it's fair to question the resources and taxpayers' money that we have historically assigned to the police without question or rating. "
Manning said defusing the police "is a really good idea."
"We definitely have to change the police model. Kneeling and killing people is not what Robert Peel imagined," said Manning, referring to the Victorian-era Prime Minister who was the father of the modern police force.
A protest organizer wears a "Defund Police" mask on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to protest peacefully and march across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 19, 2020.
Ira L. Black / Corbis via Getty
Kleinig said there should be "concrete protection" for whistleblowers, and police departments should work more with other organizations that may be better equipped to deal with problems such as homelessness.
Kleinig also said that the police "should be trained to de-escalate".
"De-escalation has been largely undervalued in policing. De-escalation often sounds like a withdrawal, so the police don't like to withdraw because withdrawing means that somebody else has somehow managed to question their authority," said Petty.
Supported by the union
Kleinig also pointed out that police unions are one of the biggest problems with the current culture of silence.
Police unions have been negotiating in some departments, so authorities have to wait 30 days before interviewing an officer involved in an investigated incident, he said.
"At that point, of course, the police had the opportunity to correct their history," he said.
Protesters surrounded the police headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, to demonstrate against police brutality on June 14, 2020.
Eze Amos / Getty
While Kleinig said he supports police unions, he admits that some have become too powerful.
"What happened, as is sometimes the case with other unions, is that they have increasingly expanded their range of interests and some of these interests are not in the public interest that the police are supposed to serve," said Kleinig.
The future of the status quo
Ultimately, despite the widespread protests, Nolan and Kleinig doubted the likelihood of a real change.
Nolan said he "cannot be convinced that it is possible" that police culture will change.
Kleinig said he feared that "all hopes" for changes in the present moment would be "met very minimally".
"It is very, very unlikely that some of the most important changes that people want will occur," said Kleinig.
A video shows one of the police officers charged with George Floyd's death when faced with shopping and asked, "Do you feel remorse?"
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