On June 30th, the Boise City Council began to discuss the budget for next year with hundreds of protestors gathered outside using starkly oppositional slogans1. One group was demanding that the police be defunded and clearly expressed the importance of standing in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives. The second group chanted slogans such as “Blue Lives Matter” and “USA”. According to Boise Weekly, this second group attempted to “disrupt the protest”2. Protestors who have taken to the streets demanding structural change, despite federally enforced lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are the metaphorical storm after the calm. The calm, or status quo, will no longer be tolerated by the public.
What are all the protests about?
The police killing of George Floyd, a Black 46-year-old man, in Minneapolis, MN on May 25th, 2020, sparked protests in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives in the United States and across the world. The video that went viral shows Derek Chauvin, a white senior officer at the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes until he suffocated to death3. George Floyd had been arrested by the four officers who were involved in his killing because of an alleged fake $20 bill3. Let’s unpack this; there was no direct physical evidence that George Floyd had a counterfeit bill in his possession. Ultimately, there is no excuse for the use of excessive force by the police. The four police officers involved in his killing are Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao3. Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and the other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting in second-degree murder and aiding and abetting in second-degree manslaughter3.
Breonna Taylor is the name of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed in her home by police in Louisville, KY on March 13th, 20204. Louisville Metro Police Department officers shot and killed her during a drug raid. The officers are Brett Hankison, Jon Mattingly, and Myles Cosgrove. They forcefully entered her home with a ‘no-knock’ warrant (see  for definition of no-knock warrant), which was banned in Louisville following her death. The #SayHerName Campaign aims to shed light on the names of Black girls and women who have been victim to police violence6. It was started by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies in 2014.
Can police departments benefit from better training?
Although there are debates on whether or not police should receive more training to reduce the likelihood of police killings, statements made by the likes of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo demonstrate the futility of such interventions. Arradondo explains how Derek Chauvin knew what he was doing when he kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck because he had received prior training on how to prevent suffocation7. Regardless of formal training, police continue to benefit from impunity due to their privileged status within law enforcement. For an example of what I mean by impunity, think qualified immunity; it protects government officials from lawsuits that claim a person’s rights have been breached by the official if the rights that were breached are not ‘clearly established’8. Qualified immunity makes it nearly impossible to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their actions. Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights §1983. In addition, the function of police in the South during the 1700s was to capture, terrorize, and discipline slaves9. The history of the police system in the U.S. explains how and why police officers continue to get away with abusing and killing Black people.
A discussion on whether or not there are ‘bad’ or ‘good’ cops is inappropriate and irrelevant to the compromised safety of Black people and people of color in America. A research article published in the journal Criminology & Public Policy found that nonwhite minority groups were significantly less likely to have been attacking the officer than white counterparts before being fatally shot10. Additionally, Black people were more than twice as likely to have been unarmed than white people before being fatally shot by a police officer. We see this being reflected in the cases of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These research findings force us to reckon with the fact that Black people are being killed by police officers at a disproportionately high rate without consequence. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ cop because the policing they are being paid to do is sanctioned by qualified immunity and a punitive justice system that targets Black people, Indigenous people, immigrants, and people of color more generally. Police brutality is a systemic issue that is rooted in state-sanctioned anti-black racism and white supremacy.
The police officers who killed George Floyd have been charged, why are protests continuing?
George Floyd is not the first Black person who has been assaulted or killed by police in the U.S., nor was his assault and death the first to be captured on camera. The list of police brutality cases is endless but people whose cases garnered widespread attention include: Rodney King (Los Angeles, CA, 1991), Philando Castile (St. Anthony, MN, 2016), Atatiana Jefferson (Fort Worth, TX, 2019), and Miracle Boyd (Chicago, IL, 2020). In most cases, the police officers involved are either not indicted or are acquitted. What this means is that they are either not charged with an offense11 or are set free from a charge of an offense12.
The public outcry against police brutality is ongoing despite federally enforced lockdowns and stay at home orders. Protestors are demanding that the status quo change. This change includes redirecting funds from police departments to social services, removing police from schools, and increasing accountability within the judiciary system.
Breonna Taylor’s name continues to circulate on social media, as well as on posters and banners during protests organized by the Movement for Black Lives. Mayor Greg Fische announced that Brett Hankison would lose his badge, the other officers have been put on administrative leave4. The public continues to demand that charges are brought to the police officers.
Written by Betel Tesfamariam
 The ‘no-knock’ warrant is “a search warrant authorizing police officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the premises”