Justification for arresting George Floyd
April 7, 2021 12:35 PM   Subscribe

What reason do the police give for arresting George Floyd to begin with? At that point they had heard he had passed a fake bill, which is not illegal.

Contrary to popular wisdom, passing a counterfeit bill isn't illegal. Not in itself, without conscious intent to defraud.
The Minneapolis police have never claimed that Floyd knew the bill was bogus, or that he had any history of passing fake bills.
So how have they justified the initial arrest, handcuffing, and manhandling? I haven't see that in the news coverage.
posted by LonnieK to Law & Government (4 answers total)
It is under Minnesota law: 609.632 COUNTERFEITING OF CURRENCY. (Link from 'All from a counterfeit bill': What we know about fake currency and George Floyd's death.) I don't know whether the arresting officers knew the technicalities or whether they would have acted any differently if the specific act that Floyd was accused of wasn't illegal. (Yes, the law requires intent to defraud, but I wouldn't expect an officer to try to determine intent on the spot. I would expect the officer not to murder the suspect.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:47 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]

They haven't justified anything because they don't have to. Cops answer to no one. They can do anything they want at any time. The only reason the cops on the stand are turning against Chauvin now is because he is making them look bad in public. The cops were only called to try to find out where the bill came from, the officers took it upon themselves to arrest Floyd & if they hadn't killed him & just took him to jail instead for no good reason we would not have found out about it, he would just have been in jail for no good reason.
posted by bleep at 12:59 PM on April 7 [17 favorites]

Cops intervene in situations all the time without making an arrests. The mere fact that something is legal doesn't mean it won't attract police attention. It's legal to scream "I'm going to kill you" at your wife, but if you do so in front of a cop (or, more directly analogous in this case, if someone sees you do so and calls the police), it's reasonable to expect that the cop might walk over to see what's going on. There's not necessarily an intent to arrest, just to investigate, and sometimes that ends up leading to more.

In George Floyd's case, the handcuffing and manhandling are separate from the initial "see what's going on" because Floyd was non-cooperative with the original police inquiry. The police justification is that Floyd refused to comply with an officer's request and so the officers had to restrain him.

This is why a lot of the discussion last summer was around escalation. When you say "officers should be able to restrain suspects who are resisting lawful orders", that seems pretty non-controversial in theory. Going back to the screaming-at-your-wife example, if the cop orders you to step away from your wife, and instead you raise your hand to strike her, few people would object if the cop stepped in and restrained you. The problem is that this principle that doesn't sound controversial in theory is often abused in practice. As we've seen, cops will interpret nearly any action on the part of a suspect as non-compliance and use it as an excuse to escalate a situation, if that's what they're in the mood to do at that particular time. If you're looking for a reason to escalate, you can pretty much always find one.

There are some other things involved in terms of practical policing that contributed as well. I'm not familiar with Minneapolis specifically, but it's fairly common for cops to stop people for "suspicious activity" and use that as an excuse to check for outstanding warrants and things like that. I would bet that's what the original two officers on the scene were originally thinking: that they'd use the passing counterfeit bills complaint as the basis for, essentially, a stop-and-frisk.

Note also that the original call from the store also mentioned that Floyd seemed drunk and was behaving strangely, and the police could have used that as the basis of a disorderly conduct arrest.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:07 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]

Because they could. I once failed to buy a train pass in Chicago with a fake 10 dollar bill that i didn't know was fake until the lady at the currency exchange told me. Then i realized it was obviously the wrong kind of paper and just looked off. I had gotten it in change somewhere else, who knows where, because someone else managed to pass it off as a good one. I refuse to believe what i did was a crime, and it could just as easily explain why George Floyd had a bogus $20. I'm alive and unmolested because I'm white.

There's no justification. The cops could have just confiscated the bill and at most taken his info down to take into account in a counterfeiting investigation. Arresting him was just an effort to ruin someone's day because they could.
posted by dis_integration at 7:33 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]

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