George Floyd Civil Rights Case Settles for $27 Million

Against the backdrop of a criminal trial pending against officers involved in the shooting of George Floyd, the City of Minneapolis last week agreed to pay $27 million to resolve the pending civil rights violation action. According to KSL News, the lawsuit against officers and the city was filed in July of last year after Floyd was declared dead on May 25, 2020. The city said that $500,000 of the settlement money will go to the neighborhood where Floyd was arrested.

The death of Floyd came after white police officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Dept. illegally restrained Floyd by putting his knee against his neck for about 9 and a half minutes after he was put in handcuffs and lying face down in the street. These actions leading to his death, sparked widespread protests over perceived police brutality against African Americans. This incident led to a resurgence in the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement and spawned multiple protests in cities across the United States, making it one of the largest civil rights protests in U.S. history according to Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lives_Matter].

The federal civil rights action was filed by George Floyd’s family against Minneapolis City, police officer Chauvin and three other officers who took part in the incident. The lawsuit alleged that officers violated Floyd’s civil rights when they unlawfully restrained him and that the city was negligent in allowing a culture of excessive force and racism to thrive in its police force. The lawsuit sought injunctive relief through special training for its officers on how to protect the community without violating their civil rights. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, officer Chauvin and three others were fired.

There is often a fine line between protecting the community and trampling community members’ civil rights. Officers do put themselves in harm’s way, but when the safety of the officer is not on the line, there is little to no justification when an officer improperly restrains a suspect and causes them injury or death. Whether it’s suffocating a suspect to death by putting a knee to their throat, over-tasing a suspect leading to their death, or shooting an unarmed person who poses no harm to an officer, officers are not allowed to take matters into their own hands and dispense justice “wild-west” style. Their job is to take a suspect into custody when there is a reasonable suspicion the person has broken the law and let the courts sort out what punishment, if any, is appropriate under the circumstances. When officers omit the judicial safeguard by taking matters into their own hands and by dispensing their own style of “street justice,” they have violated that person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, opening the door to a potential civil rights violation lawsuit.

Ron Kramer is an attorney practicing personal injury and wrongful death law in West Jordan and throughout Utah.