A coalition of community activists Monday will call 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 allegedly included the words “You take my breath away.”
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.”
Los Angeles Police Department 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, LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the Los Angeles Times.
The coalition of activists, headed by Project Islamic Hope, have scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference outside LAPD’s Harbor Community Police Station to ask for a meeting with Moore, and to call for “the termination of any LAPD (employee) who shared this image mocking Floyd’s killing.
“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,” said Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope.
Reports of the image, and the subsequent complaint within the LAPD, first surfaced Friday, two day’s before Valentine’s Day.
Screencaps 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.”
It was unclear whether this is the same image that prompted the LAPD complaint.
LAPD HQ, an official department account, tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Saturday: “The Department has become aware of allegations that an image was being passed around the department and this image was in the workplace. There are also allegations that the post with the image was authored by a department employee.”
The tweet continued: “A personnel complaint has been initiated and we are pursuing each allegation including interviewing the department member who brought it to our attention.
“At this point the Department has not identified any actual postings in the workplace or identified that it was, in fact, our department employee who created the image. We have raised the apparent existence of the image and directed commands to survey the worksites for it.”
An email posted on Twitter Saturday by journalist, political commentator and activist Jasmyne Cannick, dated Feb. 12, appears to indicate the complaint originated out of the department’s Harbor division.
“I just received word through the chain of command of a complaint that was generated on an inappropriate online post from a Department member,” Capt. Jay Mastick of the Harbor Patrol Division wrote. “The post depicts a photo of George Floyd, with a caption, ‘you take my breath away’ in a Valentine format.
“Chief Moore was disgusted by the post and directed that a Department complaint be generated. “…Messages with inappropriate content may also result in discipline. I ask that you maintain your professionalism and use judicious restraint while posting online because it will ultimately reflect on you and your position with the Department.”
Video of Floyd pinned to ground by Minneapolis police sparked weeks to nationwide protests.
A county medical examiner later ruled his death was a homicide, saying Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest.” An independent autopsy determined he died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.”
Moore told the Los Angeles Times he was determined find out what happened with the image mocking Floyd’s death, 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 told the Times Saturday. “If the department confirms that officers were circulating the image, people will find my wrath.”