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Grand Canyon University
June 03, 2020
Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was fired from the police department after killing a forgery suspect, George Floyd, while in police custody May 25th, 2020. Soon after, Chauvin was charged with murder and manslaughter (Hawkins, 2020). Police records show that Chauvin has a history of complaints because of his violent behavior, which include two shootings; one was fatal and 17 other complaints were made against Chauvin that span across his career with the Minneapolis Police Department. When video footage showed him kneeling into the neck of George Floyd, an African American man, for over eight minutes as he pleaded that he cannot breathe, the actions of Derek Chauvin caused worldwide outrage and protests for justice and racial equality.
A head of police confirmed that complaints can rage from minor compliance issues to more severe incidents, but admitted that 17 complaints are unusual for any one officer to receive. Throughout his 19 year career as a police officer, Chauvin was disciplined twice according to the Minneapolis Police Department of Internal Affairs (Andrew, 2020). Additionally, the former officer was said to display overt aggression towards African Americans specifically during his shifts at a nightclub where he worked as a security officer. Before she sold the club in January, the owner of the night club, Maya Santamaria told the New York Times that Chauvin occasionally used pepper spray on black customers (Furber, Burch & Robles, 2020). She described Chauvin as a nice guy who’s tightly wound, as she spoke of the obvious racial tension that surrounded the club after they introduced a new promotion that drew a predominately black crowd (Hawkins, 2020). Santamaria also spoke of her disbelief at the lack of humanity Chauvin displayed as she watched the eye witness video footage of George Floyd’s death caused by Chauvin’s actions (Andrew, 2020). One day after his arrest, Chauvin’s wife filed for divorce, refused spousal support and made mention of her impending name change.
Former officer Chauvin’s deadly aggression has parallels with the theory of social learning (Branscombe, p. 329). Police knew about the dangerous outcome of the kneeling tactic before it was used on George Floyd (Hauck & Wagner, 2020). The fact that it can harm or kill someone is common knowledge in police training programs. In an interview with MSNBC, a former officer recalls his time in various police academy programs in which he and his cohorts were specifically trained not to use the kneeling tactic because of its harmful impact. The theory of social learning points out that people are not born with aggression, but they are exposed to aggression through personal experience. They observe aggressive behavior either in person or on various forms of media such as television or movies. Psychologists believe that social learning is a way in which people find out how to harm others using different methods. The perpetrators target individuals to take out their aggression. This theoretical model allows for psychologists to observe that aggressive individuals find justification for their actions. African American’s seem to be the target group of Derek Chauvin’s aggression, in which case he justifies his behavior because of his authoritative role as an officer. A person’s act of aggression depends on factors such as the individuals experiences and associated rewards for released aggression, among others. Chauvin’s observed, overt aggression towards African American’s at the night club where he worked was an indicator that his aggressive acts could continue against this target group.
Punishment is a technique that can greatly decrease aggressive behavior. In Cauvin’s case, stronger punishment for his earlier complaints of aggression, have the power to change his thoughts and behavior. For example, hefty fines or jail time for violations are major punishment techniques (Branscombe, p. 329). Jail time for his murder charge has a major influence to prevent future acts of violence, though Chauvin’s aggression may continue in prison. Studies show that people are likely to commit the same crime when they get out of jail (Branscombe & Baron, pp. 351-352). A longer prison sentence is most effective to prevent Chauvin from overly aggressive acts towards African American civilians. Confinement ensures he has no position of authority and no access to weapons to justify his aggression. In another preventative measure, Chauvin has to self-regulate his thinking to hold himself back from aggression.
Research shows that most people have implicit bias towards African Americans. Results show a smaller amount of people who are neutral and possess no racial bias. Police academies can administer tests to determine whether cohorts have implicit bias or not (Harvard.EDU, 2011). These tests, known as IATs can equip police department psychologists and police personnel with useful information to employ only those who are less likely to have bias and therefore less likely to target specific groups of people for their aggressive acts while on the force (Fleischhauer, Strobel, Enge & Strobel, 2013).
Hawkins, D. (202, May 29). Officer charged in George Floyd’s death used fatal force before and had history of complaints. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/29/officer-charged-george-floyds-death-used-fatal-force-before-had-history-complaints/
Furber, M., S. Burch, A. D., & Robles, F. (2020, May 29). What Happened in the Chaotic Mo
ments Before George Floyd Died. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/us/derek-chauvin-george-floyd-worked-together.html?searchResultPosition=5
Andrews, S. (2020, June 1). Derek Chauvin: What we know about the former officer charged in George Floyd's death. In CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/01/us/derek-chauvin-what-we-know-trnd/index.html
Branscombe, N. M., & Baron, R. A. (2017). Social Psychology (14th ed.). New York, NY:
Hauck, G., & Wagner, D. (2020, May 29). George Floyd death: Experts say knee-to-neck restraint is dangerous, but Minneapolis allows it. In usatoday.com. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/29/george-floyd-experts-say-neck-restraint-allowed-minneapolis-can-kill/5274334002/
Fleischhauer, M., Strobel, A., Enge, S., & Strobel, A. (2013). Assessing implicit cognitive moti
vation: Developing and testing an Implicit Association Test to measure need for cognition. European Journal of Personality, 27(1), 15–29. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1002/per.1841
Harvard.EDU. (2011). Race IAT. In Project Implicit. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html
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