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Op-ed

Why did we get mad at Amy Cooper? Look at George Floyd's death

If you call the cops, you'd better have good reason.

Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Amy Cooper, the dog-choking woman who called the police to falsely accuse a black man of threatening her life in Central Park, lost her job and her dog while suffering potentially permanent reputational damage for her brief act of viral racism.

And yes, it was racist. It's quite clear from the way she tells the man, Christian Cooper, that she will call the police to "tell them an African American man is threatening my life." She told on herself with the racial emphasis in the threat.

Some looked at the severe backlash against Amy Cooper and wondered whether it was really that big of a deal. And while there's a reasonable conversation to be had about how much she should be punished for her actions, make no mistake: Her transgression was deadly serious.

You don't really know who is going to show up when you call the police. Many officers are truly wonderful people who love and serve the community with integrity. They care about everyone in their jurisdiction, and they treat them accordingly. They take no joy in having altercations with citizens; those are just a necessary part of their duty to protect and serve.

But there are some officers who love violence. They're intoxicated by the authority granted to them by the government. They're wound up as tight as can be, so the slightest offense may be met with shocking, disproportionate levels of force. Some police officers are like Derek Chauvin.

Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department responded to a call over the alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill in a deli; a thoroughly nonviolent crime, if it had even been committed. When the officers arrived, the suspect, George Floyd, was sitting in his car.

They pulled him out of the car without a fight. Handcuffed him without a fight. Sat him on the ground without a fight. Walked him away from his car without a fight.

But somehow, Floyd ended up face first on the ground with two officers on his back and a third, Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd's neck, choking the life out of him over a seven-minute period that's all on video from multiple angles.

Even the bystanders realized that Chauvin was killing Floyd. He begged for mercy until he fell unconscious and died on the pavement. Murdered by the state in broad daylight with witnesses all around.

There was no reason for Chauvin's knee to be on Floyd's neck. He was handcuffed, on his stomach, and restrained by two other officers, with another one looking on. He was not a danger to anyone, and that knee on his neck was not necessary for restraint. It only served the purpose of inflicting pain.

If that can happen to a guy who was accused of trying to buy something with a fake $20 bill from the store, imagine what could happen if the wrong NYPD officer showed up to Central Park, believing that Christian Cooper was making deadly threats against Amy Cooper?

And we know there are a lot of NYPD officers who would qualify as the "wrong" kind of officer. Whether it's the kind that beats people up for not social distancing, the kind that throws minorities against the wall because they might have drugs or guns, or the kind that chokes a man to death on the street for selling cigarettes. Take your pick.

When you call the police, you might get your friendly neighborhood policeman to deescalate the situation, or you might get the one with a history of questionable conduct who has never been held accountable for his actions, who won't hesitate to casually take someone's life, just because he knows he can. That's why you don't call the cops on someone who isn't committing a crime.

And that's why we got mad at Amy Cooper.

One last thing…
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