As part of my job as an educator, I have, at times, had to restrain teenagers. I was trained to do so. It is my least favorite part of my job. It feels scary and sad, and it stays with you for a long time after it happens.
One of the most important parts of the training is maintaining verbal communication with the person you are restraining. "Are you okay? Can you breathe? Am I hurting you? I am not trying to hurt you, just to hold you until you calm down," etc. Kids fight and complain and do not like being held in place. But they never say, "I can't breathe."
Derek Chauvin, the cop in the George Floyd case, was ignoring the man he had restrained. He held his knee on Floyd’s neck, spine out of alignment and carotid artery depressed on both sides between knee and pavement. Floyd said, “I can’t breathe,” and the cops responded that if he was talking, he could breathe. Which is true. But he stopped talking at the 4-minute mark of the video, likely because the blood flow to his brain was inhibited.
For six minutes after that, Floyd was held, non-responsive, and not once did the officers check on him. The official word from the Minneapolis Police Department is that the “officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and realized that the suspect was experiencing medical distress.” The handcuffs were on for four minutes while Floyd sat there with a knee in his neck. That is careless and stupid. The six minutes after that are murder.
Those six minutes were murder. Plain and simple.
The people around saw the evil and called it out. Check his pulse. Put him in the car. You’re killing him. He’s not resisting. Would it have been any different if they had asked nicely? A human life should not hang in the balance of careful requests for decency. A friend of mine on Facebook said that they didn’t care about that man enough to listen—that maybe if he were a dog, they would have cared more. She’s not wrong.
George Floyd fit a description. He had not been tried. He had not been accused of a crime. He fit a description, and he was, with very little plausible deniability, executed in public on camera. The men who did this were initially put on “paid administrative leave.” However, on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted, "Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated. This is the right call."
In my fifteen-year career, I have had to restrain kids probably 15-20 times, almost always to stop a fight. None of those students have been hurt by me. Many of them have come and apologized to me later for acting in a way that required restraining. I took a 2-hour training course on this in my first year of teaching. That’s it.
Derek Davidson has spent the last 15 years as an educator in Texas, up and down the East Coast, and in Minnesota. He is a father, husband and chef who blogs about mental health, education and relationships at