The Los Angeles Police Department announced that it was investigating a report of a disturbing ‘Valentine’s Day’ image being shared around by officers, which depicted George Floyd and mocked him with the caption ‘You take my breath away’. The news comes just months since Floyd, an African American, was brutally murdered by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for over nine minutes.
The investigation was launched after an officer reported what was happening to the department and, although LAPD Chief Michael Moore said he had not seen the offensive image, he said he would interview the officer on Monday. ‘Our investigation is to determine the accuracy of the allegations while also reinforcing our zero tolerance for anything with racist views,” Moore said. Moore also confirmed that the department was investigating two Instagram accounts which are reported to have links to department personnel. One of these accounts is called the ‘Blue Line Mafia’.
In a statement about the image, the LAPD said:
“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. 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.
If found any employee or supervisor is directed to take possession and identify those present. The Department will have zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
Mr. Floyd’s death in May sparked the biggest wave of civil rights protests in decades, with thousands taking to the streets to protest his killing and others like it. Police departments across the country have been reformed in the wake of Floyd’s murder, including in Los Angeles, after LA Mayor Eric Garcetti redirected $150 million away from the LAPD and towards social services.
Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and the other officers present at Floyd’s death (Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao) have all been charged with aiding and abetting those crimes. Kueng and Lane helped Chauvin hold down George Floyd, and all three officers did nothing to stop Chauvin from carrying out the murder, despite Floyd repeatedly telling the officers that ‘I can’t breathe’. ‘I can’t breathe’ subsequently became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of Floyd’s death, and the use of the phrase in the ‘Valentine’s image’ allegedly shared by cops makes the image all the more sickening.
Racial tensions have been high in the USA since Floyd’s killing, and many changes have taken place in an attempt to make society more anti-racist. The LAPD, therefore, will be under pressure to take firm action against any of its officers found to be in possession of (or who are found to have shared) the disgusting photo. Moore assured that, if officers were found to have been circulating the image, ‘people will find my wrath’.