A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers who were involved in the arrest and death of George Floyd. The officers — Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao — are accused of willfully violating Floyd's constitutional rights by restraining and ultimately killing him.
All four officers named in the indictment are charged with failure to provide Floyd with medical care despite the fact that he informed the officers that he was having trouble breathing while being held face-down on the pavement. Former officers Kueng and Thao are charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure because they failed to intervene during the more than nine minutes that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck. Chauvin was similarly charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure, and was also charged with use of unreasonable force. A separate charge was also brought against Chauvin related to a 2017 incident in which he arrested and used a neck restraint on a 14-year-old.
It is rare that police officers face consequences or charges for excessive use of force. A study from Syracuse University found that just 27 such charges were brought against police in 2020, and just 49 in 2019. Getting an officer convicted on these charges often presents a high bar that needs to be cleared; prosecutors have to prove that officers intentionally violated the constitutional rights of a victim. Oftentimes, these charges are dismissed. Officers can claim that the use of force was accidental, be found to have used bad judgment, or even acted negligently and still not be convicted.
The charges come just over two weeks since Chauvin was convicted by a Minneapolis jury of the murder of George Floyd. Despite his legal team arguing that he acted reasonably during the situation, Chauvin was convicted on three charges stemming from the May 25, 2020, arrest, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He was convicted on all three charges.