BROOKLYN – The murder of George Floyd, an innocent Black man, by a cop in Minnesota has caused unrest all throughout the country, including right here in Brooklyn. Police, who were supposed to protect protesters, have instead aggressively shoved, hit with batons, pepper-sprayed, and driven into them. Police cars have been lit on fire and Molotov cocktails have been thrown. Yesterday, we spoke to a cop who gave their take on everything that has been happening. This afternoon, we spoke to another cop in Brooklyn, a white officer with less than three years on the force. We’re keeping their name out of the story because they’re worried that by speaking out, they may face retribution. Below is our conversation, lightly edited to remove any identifying information.
“I think I speak for every officer when I say it was disgusting,” they said about the murder. “I personally was waiting for Mr. Floyd to resist or something but he just lied there. I saw a murder.”
This cop has been working the protests in Brooklyn.
“They’re riots. Plain and simple. There are a couple of protests during the day but once it gets late, they become riots,” the officer said. “Even just standing there, people drive by screaming ‘Fuck you pigs.’ People are looting, breaking private, and public property. It’s the most out of control I’ve ever seen.”
We asked about the video of the cops driving into protesters. “What went through your head when you saw that?” we asked.
“I would’ve done the same thing. Those weren’t protesters. Those were rioters. They were throwing bottles and garbage cans attacking the police. [The cops] did what anyone would’ve done if it was their family in the car,” they said.
“What if someone died?” we asked.
“That’s a chance people take. Everyone in that crowd was trying to stop the car, which would have been a very bad situation. I believe those officers did the same thing any civilian would do and the same thing anyone driving the Governor or Mayor would do if their vehicle was attacked.”
A study by Rutgers University found that roughly 100-in-100,000 black boys and men will be killed by police in their lifetime. For white boys and men, the rate is 39 out of 100,000. This cop strongly believes the fact that Black men are murdered by police isn’t a race issue.
“It’s not a cop vs black issue. It’s a bad vs good issue. There are whites killed by police but it doesn’t sell papers. It’s a vicious cycle,” they said. “Statistics have proven blacks commit more crimes than other groups and most of the time the victims of those crimes are other blacks. This leads to blacks having more interactions with police both positive and negative.”
“It’s a few bad apples,” they said. “This particular incident [in Minnesota] I think was very cut and dry. It was not a gray area. It was clear cut what the officer did was wrong. Cops are saying what he did was wrong. No cop, no one starts their tour going out and saying, ‘I hope to kill someone today.'”
They said that there are bad apples in any field. “Teachers don’t get it as bad. You have teachers who do all sorts of terrible things to kids, but you don’t say it’s a problem with all teachers,” they said. [Teachers don’t routinely murder their students. Editor’s note]. “You don’t say you have to reform their hiring practices. It’s a couple of bad apples. And, unfortunately, those are the ones that make the news. The riots are making the news more than the protests. That’s what sells papers.”
“A majority of cops go out every day wanting to do good, wanting to help people. They don’t want rocks thrown at them. Cops don’t even want to be grouped in with this Minnesota cop. No one wants to be a part of whatever it is he did. He was wrong.”
We asked them about Eric Garner, a Black man who was killed by Daniel Pantaleo, a cop, in 2014. His last words, like Floyd’s, were “I can’t breathe.”
Was Pantaleo a bad apple too?
“No. Each case is different. With Pantaleo, you saw Eric Garner resisting. You had more of a story because you had a lot of footage,” they said. “You saw the police come and talk to him for five minutes trying to tell him you have to come with us and him refusing. With Eric Garner, he was resisting and actively fighting.”
“Ok. Should Eric Garner have been killed?” we asked.
“But I don’t think that was the intention [of Pantaleo]. I think the intention was trying to control the situation. He died from other health problems. We all saw the video. It was difficult to get a handle on the situation,” they said. “When that happened… people were saying if he didn’t resist it wouldn’t have happened. And that’s true. If [Eric Garner] didn’t resist, the cops would have come and would have arrested and that would have been it.”
“So if you resist, you get murdered as Eric Garner did. And if you don’t resist, you get murdered as George Floyd did. How does that make sense?” we asked.
“There are different circumstances in each case. It’s not a systematic problem. It’s a people problem. People are different. Eric Garner resisted and he was killed. George Floyd did not resist and he was killed. That cop did the wrong thing, there is no question. Had Eric Garner not resisted, I don’t believe he would have been killed.”
This cop doesn’t personally like the Black Lives Matter movement. They said it “divides us more than it has to.”
“I go to the protests and I’ve seen the protests,” they said. “You could peacefully say Black Lives Matter. If you’re screaming Black Lives Matter and you’re looting Kate Spade, it harms your cause.”
“Of course, all lives do matter. It comes down to, is this a systematic thing or a bad apple thing. Most people would say all lives matter,” they said. “People want to unite. Because what about the white people who are killed by police. What about the Hispanic people killed by the police?”
We asked if the NYPD was perfect. They laughed.
“Not even close. There are so many changes the department has to make. The first thing to do is to give cops a pay raise,” they said. “Studies have shown employees work better if they’re happier. Second, you have to let the police be the police. Politicians have no right to tell police how to police.”
“What do you mean ‘let the police be the police’?” we wondered out loud.
“There are a lot of politicians who are saying what should be done, what shouldn’t be done. When to use force, when not to use force. What to do with the protesters. How forceful to be,” they said. “You let the police commissioner make the decision. You let the people who are the experts make the decision. A lot of elected officials are telling police what to do.”
They said that elected officials telling cops what to do is putting them “in a bad situation.”
“The police have the ability to end the riot. And end the violence. We have the manpower. We have the equipment to use when it gets out of hand. But we’re not allowed to do it. And that’s where the violence escalates on both sides.”
“So how would you do it? How would you end the violence?” we asked.
“You have to get people off the streets when it starts getting to that point,” they said. “The peaceful protesters who are there have to understand that if they’re next to someone whose breaking a window or burning a police car, then there’s a very good chance you might get injured.”
We asked them to explain this ‘manpower’ they speak of.
“When I say manpower and equipment, our emergency service units have the equipment. They have tear gas and rubber bullets, which is the stuff you should be using during a protest to clear people off that really doesn’t do damage. Tear gas does not do damage. You use tear gas to clear the street. Rubber bullets, if done properly, does damage, but it’s not lethal and it’s quicker and less violent that way.”
In the end, they stressed that the City is worse than they have ever seen it. “We have lost control of the city,” they said.
“This would not have happened under Guiliani. This would not have happened under Bloomberg,” they said. “[Mayor de Blasio] has the authority to say [the cops] are going to come in when the protests turn to riots; we’re going to come in and we’re going to take over the streets.”