NMA Calls for Open Dialogue on Police Brutality
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American male was taken into police custody by Minneapolis police after being suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase. He was handcuffed, and at some point, one of the police officers pinned him down with his knee on his posterior neck. Mr. Floyd struggled to breathe, stating such audibly. After eight minutes and 46 seconds of continued neck compression Mr. Floyd became silent. Paramedics were called who found Mr. Floyd unresponsive and pulseless. He was later declared dead at a local hospital. The death has been declared a homicide by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office.
Since the death of Mr. Floyd, there has been widespread national civil unrest, some excessive, with destruction of property and personal injury. The demand is for justice to the family of George Floyd and an end to the pervasive police brutality that has been perpetrated on the Black community for decades.
Studies have shown that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police in the United States than white people. More unarmed Black people were killed by police than unarmed white people last year, despite the fact that Black people comprise only 14% of the population. The NMA considers this a public health crisis.
Police killings — which can include shootings, choking and other uses of force — are the sixth-leading cause of death among men of all races ages 25-29, according to the study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
The protests that we have witnessed is an understandable response to the injustice that occurred in Minneapolis. There has been the calling up of the National Guard to “restore order,” however there has been little action on the underlying racism, injustice and inappropriate excessive use of police force that has led to a release of rage in this country. While the NMA does not condone violence and property destruction, the NMA does demand that there is a dispassionate response to the history of police violence in the Black community, including the actions recommended by the NMA’s Task Force on Gun Violence:
- Immediate development of a federal office responsible for the review of all fatal police excessive-use-of-force cases occurring in local jurisdictions.
- Uniform reporting of all deaths by law enforcement utilizing the US Standard Death Certificate.
- The immediate discontinuation of police practices that include life threatening maneuvers like the 'choke hold' and the practice of placing weight or force, by any means, on a restrained person's neck which is particularly vulnerable to injury that can easily result in death as in the case of Freddie Gray and now George Floyd. Any occurrence of these unauthorized and potentially life-threatening practices being used by law enforcement should result in immediate dismissal and formal investigation of the officer/officers involved.
- All police officers are required to voluntarily report any witnessed unauthorized or excessive use of police force by a fellow officer. An omission of reporting such instances is considered an act of complicity.
The appropriate governmental response is not to use force only reflexively, but to address the underlying conditions that have brought chaos to the streets. Peace is possible; it will take mutual understanding and respect. All sides need to come together and forge a solution to protest violence, and police violence. Only when the cause of the outrage is acknowledged and there is open dialogue will we have peace.
The NMA is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. As the collective voice of African American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine; the NMA has long asserted police excessive use of force as a public health issue and has published both a position statement on police excess use of force and a position paper on urban violence in minority communities. The organization is committed to addressing issues of social determinants, structural violence and systemic racism that fosters an environment that leads to the disproportionate policing of communities of color.
|Oliver T. Brooks, MD
||Contact: Michael Peery
|President, National Medical Association