Activists called Monday for the firing of any Los Angeles Police Department employee who created or circulated a Valentine-themed social media post featuring an image of George Floyd that included the words “You take my breath away,” while the police union, the Floyd family attorney and the Los Angeles County district attorney all decried the post.
“The family of George Floyd is outraged and devastated,” Project Islamic Hope director Najee Ali said at a news conference at the LAPD’s Harbor station, where an officer had made a formal complaint about the post at the urging of Police Chief Michel Moore.
“It’s despicable and outrageous that there are LAPD employees who are in the workplace mocking the police murder of George Floyd, who died in May after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground under the knee of Derek Chauvin, who was then a police officer in Minneapolis,” Ali said.
Floyd died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer handcuffed him, pinned him to the ground and then knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes as he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
That officer, Chauvin, is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge.
LAPD officials said they launched an internal investigation after an officer complained about the image and alleged it was being circulated within the department. The complaining officer was scheduled to be interviewed Monday. Department officials said they have not yet determined whether the post was circulated by any members of the LAPD.
Moore told the Los Angeles Times he was determined find out what happened and who, if anyone, from the department was involved.
“Our investigation is to determine the accuracy of the allegations while also reinforcing our zero tolerance for anything with racist views,” Moore said Saturday. “If the department confirms that officers were circulating the image, people will find my wrath.”
Ali and a coalition of activists are asking for a meeting with Moore, and calling for “the termination of any LAPD (employee) who shared this image” mocking Floyd’s killing.
“We have a relationship with law enforcement,” community activist LaWanda Hawkins said Monday. “And I’m not going to allow anything like that to destroy our relationship. I hope this makes our relationship a little bit stronger. I know the (police) captain here and I know how he’s working with the community.”
Ali also shared a statement from the Floyd family’s attorney, which read in part: “The Floyd Family is understandably outraged. This is beyond insult on top of injury. It’s injury on top of death. The type of callousness and cruelty within a person’s soul for them to do something (like this) evades comprehension and is indicative of a much large problem with the culture of the LAPD.”
The LAPD’s union also expressed outrage at the post.
“The Los Angeles Police Protective League repudiates this abhorrent image and anyone associated with its creation, dissemination, or passive observation of it,” the union said in a statement Monday. “If that image was created, `liked,’ or shared by a member of the LAPD, the chief of police must act swiftly to hold those individuals accountable. There must be zero tolerance for this behavior in our profession, and any police officer who feels the need to be part of any online group that engages in, promotes, and/or celebrates this type of activity should quickly rethink their career choice because they clearly don’t have the judgment, nor temperament, to be a member of law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, who has made addressing systemic racism the cornerstone of his mission since taking office in December, said his office would look into the matter to determine if the integrity of any of its cases may have been compromised by biased police work.
“Celebrating the murder of a Black man at the hands of police demonstrates a profound absence of humanity. The mock valentine underscores the highly problematic, and frankly, racist perceptions that pervade the law enforcement culture regarding the communities we are sworn to protect and serve,” Gascon said.
Reports of the image, and the subsequent complaint within the LAPD, first surfaced Friday, two day’s before Valentine’s Day.
Screen grabs of the image allegedly referred to in the internal LAPD complaint, and posted on Twitter and elsewhere, shows a picture of Floyd on a pink background surrounded by hearts with the words “You take my breath away” and Valentine-style spaces to designate who it is being sent “to” and “from.”