Police reform is a hot-button topic, and it’s one that’s recently caused stalemates in our federal legislative process; however, Texas lawmakers have returned to session and are working on the business of state, including enacting new laws. One such law whose progress we are following closely is the George Floyd Act, an incredible sweeping attempt to encapsulate several issues surrounding criminal justice reform that have been recurring for more than 20 years.
Though we all might differ in our personal beliefs, we can appreciate standards of humanity and care, and we can understand the outrage resulting from the events we saw unfold in May 2020 when George Floyd passed away from deadly use of the chokehold, a miscarriage of justice which begs for resolve. The proposed reform measure at hand, aptly named after George Floyd and backed by his family, has four main components to it, so let’s take a look at the meat of it:
We all have the right to breathe
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, a turning point in the discussion surrounding police tactics was the use of chokeholds and whether or not they have a place in our society. We’ve all seen the use of chokeholds in jiu-jitsu, a martial arts practice with a grappling referee who calls an end to a match, and also within combat maneuver tactics designed to kill. During an arrest where there’s no referee to say when and the goal is to detain a suspect for due process, the lethal use of the chokehold is considered controversial and is why so many cities, states, and even countries have already banned the use of this practice. The bans we’ve already seen are purely aspirational, and we can’t count on chokeholds being banned with certainty until an actual law is passed to prohibit the use, and the George Floyd Act would do just that.
Reciprocal rights are a must
The second component of the George Floyd Act that is gaining traction is the use of reciprocal force. If you’ve tuned into our show or seen some of our previous social media posts, you know that we take seriously self-defense and the notion that you’re only legally and defensibly allowed to use physical force on someone else that is proportionate to the force they excise on you first. These laws are often argued in assault cases, but they currently do not extend to police officers. The George Floyd Act would restrict police officers from using unnecessary, disproportionate force while making arrests. Opponents of this portion of the act argue that it will leave officers in jeopardy and without means to arrest persons suspected of criminal activity; however, it does not create a void in police response, but more so requires that officers continually monitor and assess their situation as they subdue a suspect and to constantly try and exercise de-escalation techniques to restore the peace and humanely perform their duty.
Walk it off
The third component of note here has less to do with physical force and more to do with acknowledging that some crimes require no force at all, as not every misstep calls for an arrest. The proposed George Floyd Act would recognize that fine-only offenses, your Class C crimes that don’t include a statutory element of jail time, are better suited for ticketing instead of an arrest. Allowing citizens to walk instead of placing them under arrest unnecessarily would exponentially decrease the risk of excessive force by police.
Throwing out the “bad apples”
The fourth component of great importance that is part of the George Floyd Act would place on officers an affirmative duty to step in and either stop excessive force, minimize it, call for help, and report it. Just as the bystander law in Texas which requires action from citizens when they view emergency situations, this concept would make law officers beholden to the same duty that we demand from citizens.
There is so much to unpack with this proposed legislation that we will continue to closely monitor in the hopes that many of our state’s and nation’s concerns will be resolved. I will conclude this heated but important discussion with a reminder to reach out to a trusted criminal defense attorney if you ever have any questions about or are involved in a criminal issue, and continue to check in with us on social media, as we are dedicated to sharing the crucial information that affects our clients and society.