The way the Minneapolis Police first described George Floyd’s murder — “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction” — didn’t mention that an officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. It did mention that Floyd physically resisted officers, a detail which former officer Derek Chauvin’s defense team leaned on during the murder trial — although Chauvin was ultimately found guilty.
For decades, journalists have treated official police reports and statements as trusted primary sources. Now, some are questioning the reports’ reliability and objectivity as part of a reckoning in the media spurred by George Floyd’s murder.
Crucially, what a police report states — or doesn’t state — impacts the narrative of an incident. Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity and a professor of African American studies and psychology at Yale University, says that’s “always been a portion of what’s been wrong with law enforcement.”
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