Family of George Floyd Obtains $27 Million Police Brutality Settlement

On March 12, 2021, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to pay the family of George Floyd $27 million as a settlement for allegations of police brutality related to his death in police custody on May 25, 2020.

The case ignited a firestorm of controversy and protests across the country when video captured Floyd prostrate on the crowd, stating repeatedly he could not breathe, as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, while three other officers kept the crowd at bay.

The settlement was the largest in the city’s history, dwarfing the $20 million payment the city made two years ago after an officer killed a white woman. However, the major difference in the two cases is that Officer Mohamed Noor had already been convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 15, 2017, slaying of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, whereas Officer Derek Chauvin, the principal defendant in the Floyd killing, has yet to be tried. Legal commentators wonder how the rush to settle will influence the subsequent criminal proceedings.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump viewed the early settlement as a positive sign and an opportunity “to help shape what justice looks like.” He told the Associated Press that “The one thing we know as Black there is no guarantee that a police officer will be convicted for killing a Black person unjustly in our country. That’s what history has taught us.”

L. Chris Stewart, another attorney for the Floyd family, held a similar opinion. “Justice doesn’t really wait,” he said. “It happens when it happens, and it happened today.” Stewart noted that the civil case “doesn’t have anything to do with” Chauvin’s upcoming criminal trial. Stewart stressed the positive momentum the settlement provides for police reforms throughout the country. “…what happens is that trickles down to decisions in the communities across this country. When there is a city council or a mayor deciding, ‘Oh, should we get rid of no-knock warrants, should we get rid of chokeholds, do we want to change these policies?’ They have 27 million reasons now why they should. And that will make decisions happen. That will make accountability happen.”

The Floyd settlement continues a trend in civil accountability for police killings, which has included in recent years:

  • Breonna Taylor — $12 million and reform police practices
  • Freddie Gray — $6.4 million
  • Tamir Rice — $6 million
  • Eric Garner — $6 million
  • Laquan McDonald — $5 million
  • Akai Gurley — $4.1 million
  • Philando Castile — $3.8 million
  • Michael Brown — $1.5 million

Mr. Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, expressed gratitude for the settlement while noting that no amount of money can bring a loved one back. "I thank the state of Minnesota for getting this settlement taken care of," he said. "But even though my brother is not here, he's here with me in my heart. Because if I could get him back, I would give all of this back. … I know that he's with us, and he's standing up, right now, knowing that we have the opportunity to be able to fund low-income, African American communities."

Philonise Floyd referred to $500,000 included in the settlement that will be donated to the area in South Minneapolis surrounding the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park. The family did not release details on how the half million dollars will be used. The Council also voted unanimously to rename the site of the tragedy George Floyd Square.

In addition to compensating the family, Minneapolis has taken decisive steps to reform policing, which include:

  • A ban on chokeholds and the requirement that officers report colleagues who use chokeholds and intervene to prevent usage
  • Changes to the MPD's use of force reporting requirements with a stronger emphasis on de-escalation
  • $7.77 million in funding redirected from the police budget to other programs, such as mental health
  • Increased capacity within the Civil Rights Department's Office of Police Conduct Review to investigate complaints about abusive police officer behavior
  • Redirection of some non-emergency calls to other city departments

The news of the settlement comes as jury selection begins in the criminal trial of Officer Derek Chauvin. The Floyd family can only hope that justice is done in that process as well, so they can have complete closure.