Commentary: Don’t rush to judgment in George Floyd case

By Robert Gouge

As a retired law enforcement officer, I would like to offer some observations to the ongoing discussions surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

First, I think it would be helpful if we could all simply take a deep breath. There has been significant pressure to seek immediate answers regarding what occurred in this matter; however, a full and complete investigation takes time.

I was an instructor during my career and, to explain the investigative process to recruits, I used the story of a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. One man described the elephant as being like a snake since he was feeling the tail. Another man was describing the elephant as being like a tree since he was feeling the leg, and so on.

I hope you get the point here – no one was seeing the whole picture. Doing a complete and comprehensive investigation can take a lengthy period of time. I certainly hear the forceful demands for justice in this matter, but a rush to judgment usually does not get the full and complete investigation that supports a just result.

Collectively, we have been exposed to a steady procession of theatrical appearances from various politicians who appear to be pandering to their constituent base by promising quick actions (see paragraph above).

In my view, the most outlandish performance was made by the Minnesota attorney general, who criminally charged the three other officers involved in this incident. Time will tell whether those charges will survive a review by a judge. I recall an incident in Baltimore and the actions of the local district attorney who charged all the officers connected with the death of a black male. Every single charge leveled in that matter was dismissed.

Speaking of statistics, I have seen almost no reporting of relevant statistics to support the allegations of a sustained campaign by all law enforcement to assault and kill minority members of our society. To the contrary, the FBI’s preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2019 states that law enforcement in the United States made approximately 10 million arrests that year. During that year, approximately 1,004 persons were fatally shot by law enforcement. Of those individuals who were killed, approximately 41 were unarmed. Of those 41, 19 were white and nine were black. I will let the numbers speak for themselves.

I have never witnessed a police officer who used force on an individual do so without some justification. The overwhelming use-of-force reports involve an individual who was resisting arrest. In Delaware, it is illegal to resist arrest even if the arrest is subsequently deemed to have been illegal itself. An individual who is placed under arrest has the absolute duty to submit to that arrest. A police officer is legally permitted to use reasonable force to affect the arrest. Should the police officer exceed his/her authority, there are legal remedies that are in place to rectify any harm done.

We are not a society that is governed by mob rule; we are governed by the rule of law. We are also a society of humans and, as such, imperfect. The utopia promised by these theatrical politicians and the yellow journalism that is practiced by many news sources is a cancer that will impede any attempt to institute meaningful change that will actually improve our society.

Robert Gouge is a retired law enforcement officer who lives in Middletown.