MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minneapolis City Council on Friday, March 12, unanimously approved a $27 million civil settlement with the family of George Floyd. It’s a record payout for the city.
Floyd was killed on May 25 in south Minneapolis while in police custody. One officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as the man lay handcuffed and face down on the ground pleading that he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd’s killing sparked protest and unrest in the Twin Cities and across the country. Chauvin and three other officers were fired. Chauvin is on trial now facing murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s killing. The other ex-officers have been charged with aiding and abetting.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump on Friday described the agreement with Minneapolis as the country's largest-ever pretrial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case.
He appealed to the public to peacefully protest as they remember Floyd. “It’s going to be a long journey to justice,” he said. “This is but one step on the journey to justice.”
Council members approved the settlement publicly following a closed meeting to discuss the matter.
"There is no amount of money that can replace a brother, a son, a nephew, a father, a loved one. But what we can do is continue to work towards justice and equity and equality in the city of Minneapolis,” said Andrea Jenkins, a Minneapolis City Council member.
Council President Lisa Bender echoed that sentiment. "Minneapolis has been fundamentally changed by this time of racial reckoning,” she said. The City Council, she added, was committed to working with the community leaders and Floyd’s family to “equitably reshape” Minneapolis.
Civil settlements with the families of people killed by Minneapolis police in the last two decades have totaled tens of millions of dollars, including a $20 million settlement in 2019 for the killing of Justine Ruszczyk, who was shot and killed by former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor after calling 911.
The Floyd family plans to use the money to promote social justice and support low-income African American communities. About $500,000 of the settlement will go toward the community around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis where Floyd died.
“If I could get him back, I would give all of this back,” Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, said of the settlement. “America, we need to heal. This nation needs healing. Our family needs healing.”
Just blocks away, the first week of jury selection in Chauvin’s trial was wrapping up. Although the civil and criminal processes are separate, some legal observers say the timing of the historic settlement could affect jury selection. The judge overseeing the case is trying to make sure jurors can make fair decisions based on evidence, not information they may pick up in the news.
Reporters pressed family attorneys about the timing of the settlement and whether they were concerned about its effect on the trial.
"The one thing we know as Black people in America that there is no guarantee that a police officer will be convicted for killing a Black person unjustly," Crump said.
The City Council also voted Friday to move forward an amendment to the city's charter that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety.
Supporters say it would allow a broader approach to public safety in the city. But critics say it complicates the city's public safety structure and makes it less efficient.
The proposal now heads to the city's charter commission. Council members who support the amendment want to put the question on ballots in the November election.
Crump expressed support for that effort and said Minneapolis could be a “beacon of hope and light and change” in the effort to change policing in America.