Never again? We wish

6/1/2023, 6 p.m.
George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, was supposed to be a wake-up call for America.

George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, was supposed to be a wake-up call for America.

The video that aired on social media showed that police can be brutal to people in custody, most notably Black people, and the protests that killing sparked were supposed to make a difference.

What we do know is that the cruel Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, suffocating him, ultimately was convicted of second degree murder and is now behind bars.

But there are too many incidents still happening across the country, including the notorious March 6 homicide of Irvo Otieno at Central State Hospital right here Virginia.

The lesson that people having a mental health issue should not have to die while in the custody of sworn officers has yet to be fully absorbed by some who carry a badge.

Benjamin L. Crump, whose firm has been widely successful in representing families whose loved ones have died at the hands of law enforcement, brought that message to Richmond last week in a “Justice for Irvo” town hall at Virginia Union University.

He has been outspoken about the need for improvements in the treatment of people who come into law enforcement’s hands due to a mental health crisis.

Mr. Crump said the real reason Mr. Floyd died is that he suffered from claustrophobia, a fear of small spaces, and the officers who arrested him refused to understand he was ready to go willingly if they would just call a larger paddy wagon rather than trying to stuff him into the narrow confines of the police car’s rear seat.

That triggered his condition, Mr. Crump said, but the officers at the scene simply refused to listen or try to understand the problem. Instead, the senior officer decided to punish Mr. Floyd into obedience and subsequently killed him.

Supposedly, officers are being trained to recognize such mental health problems and to deal with them.

But the video evidence in Mr. Otieno’s case shows that whatever training deputies received at the Henrico County Jail, it never sank in. What type of training would make deputies pile onto a prone man for 12 minutes after bringing him to the hospital?

In his remarks at the town hall, Mr. Crump cited other egregious cases since Mr. Floyd’s death, and noted that a lot more work is needed to ensure people in crisis survive encounters with law enforcement.

“It can happen to anyone. It can happen to your loved ones,” Mr. Crump said, who listed other high-profile cases in which families have engaged him to seek justice.

He spoke of Brianna Grier, a 28-year-old Georgia mother who was fatally injured in July 2022 when she fell out of a unsecured rear door of a moving police car as officers took her away for a mental health evaluation.

He spoke of the death of mentally ill Lashawn Thompson, who succumbed in September 2022 in an Atlanta jail psychiatric ward after suffering thousands of bed bug bites while indifferent personnel did nothing to help him.

He also spoke of Gershun Freman, 33, who was beaten to death in October by his jailers in Memphis, Tenn., as he suffered a psychotic episode.

“We need to give our children a better America,” Mr. Crump said, “where (those suffering with mental illness) have an opportunity to live without having being killed by excessive force by those who are supposed to serve and protect them.”

Who could disagree?