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One thing that surprises me about the George Floyd incident is that the police would treat the passing of a counterfeit $20 in a corner shop as some kind of an emergency.

If someone called the emergency number (999) in Britain with such a report, I feel sure they would simply be told to try and get the vehicle registration number of the customer, and then to take the number and the note to their nearest police station. Or perhaps to call the non-emergency line.

It seems especially over-the-top that a police officer would pull out a firearm to get such an individual out of his car - almost as if someone's life were at stake.

Would US police forces normally treat the uttering of a small item of counterfeit currency as an emergency?

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    I have VtC simply because I believe this question is too broad. How one police force works in one town or city may be completely different as in another. There is no one set of rules, nationwide. So therefor, the question asked may have completely different answers for every reader from different area/towns/county/states, etc. Maybe reword the question to be "what are the rules in Minneapolis about...." – CGCampbell Jun 4 at 20:14
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The case of George Floyd is that he was accused of passing a counterfeit $20

Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit bill to buy cigarettes at the convenience store last week. The clerk reported it to police, a step that management described as store policy in Facebook posts.

In the US, most jurisdictions permit 911 calls for any active crime, regardless of the severity. The police then decide the urgency and severity of the response. While all jurisdictions have a non-emergency number, it's always a normal number. Some areas do not have a corresponding "quick dial" non-emergency number (like 311). That is the case here

Operator: How can I help you?
Caller: Um someone comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car. We tell them to give us their phone, put their (inaudible) thing back and everything and he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn't want to do that, and he's sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he's not in control of himself.

And at the end of the call

Operator: Alright, I've got help on the way. If that vehicle or that person leaves before we get there, just give us a call back, otherwise we'll have squads out there shortly, okay?
Caller: No problem.

The key line there is "If that vehicle or that person leaves before we get there, just give us a call back, otherwise we'll have squads out there shortly, okay?". Cars were sent, but it was likely a non-priority call (meaning a serious emergency like a shooting would likely have gotten those resources instead).

We don't know what escalated this between the time the cars showed up and the time we see the video of him on the ground, pinned beneath an officer's knee (which lead to Floyd's death). Without that escalation, he likely would have been taken to the local precinct or jail, booked and jailed until a pretrial hearing for bail. Counterfeiting is a Federal crime and he likely would have been investigated by the Secret Service afterward. If charged, Federal prosecutors would have tried him in Federal court.

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The fact that officers showed up promptly in person doesn't necessarily mean that they considered it an emergency. It means that they had the people available to respond and prioritized doing so over those officers' other duties. Officers also often respond to other things that I wouldn't consider an emergency, like shoplifting, loitering, or panhandling.

As to the officers' specific actions after arriving... I'll say this next part as impartially as I possibly can: the force the officers used was the catalyst for the current nationwide protests and civil unrest. The actions they took may be 'normal' in the US, but that doesn't mean that the general public finds them correct, reasonable, acceptable, or conscionable.

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  • A report which I read was that the first action of the police officer was to draw his firearm. If someone is in a car, apparently drunk, refusing to get out, would not the first sensible action be to immobilise his vehicle e.g. by parking a police vehicle directly in front of it, and/or applying a wheel clamp. – WS2 Jun 4 at 19:27
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    @WS2 Blocking him in with vehicles does sound sensible to me. Trying to apply a wheel clamp would needlessly endanger the officers, though. As far as I know, you need to physically touch the wheel to do that, which puts you in harm's way if the vehicle moves. I'm not sure what you're looking for in regards to the officer drawing his firearm. You're not going to hear me justifying any of Chauvin's actions with Mr. Floyd. – Carl Kevinson Jun 4 at 21:02
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Would US police forces normally treat the use of a small amount of counterfeit money as an emergency?

This is much too broad to answer. However, if the police have no, or few, other incidents to deal with - why not? They’re there to prevent crime and a crime has been reported.

If someone called the emergency number (999) in Britain with such a report, I feel sure they would simply be told to try and get the vehicle registration number of the customer

In England (which is different to Britain), there have been significant cuts to police forces. I can say that not only do they not attend for the use of counterfeit money, they don’t attend many other things which you would want them to. I don’t think following the English model is the way to go here.


The other point to make is that the 911 call included the statement that the suspect was very drunk, and in (?) their car.

he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn't want to do that, and he's sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk

That is a good reason for police to be deployed, and probably to be arrested (I’m not sure about the rules in the US, but in England if you intend to drink drive you can be arrested to prevent it). I would expect a fairly quick response from police informed that a suspect intended to drive under the influence.

And, finally, the suspect was refusing to give back the cigarettes (possibly due to inebriation). That’s arguably theft, as the suspect paid with a counterfeit bill. To bring it back to the England comparisons, if you were to attempt pay for your groceries with counterfeit money, which the shop refused, yet you kept the groceries (possibly due to being inebriated), I think I would want police involved. Whether they would turn up is unfortunately down to if they can afford to.

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  • The UK offence is being "drunk in charge of a motor vehicle" - so even if you are not in the car, but merely have the keys in your pocket - you can technically be charged. I have elsewhere acknowledged that this would justify a call to 999 or 911. However the exact legal position with regard to return of the goods, involving someone who is informed about a counterfeit note, after they have left the premises, would be a complicated matter in either country - I would suggest. – WS2 Jun 5 at 9:37
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    @WS2 agreed, and likely for an item as small as a packet of cigarettes a shop would probably end up dropping the matter. I’d actually argue that is one of the roles of the police - to mediate a minor dispute that a court wouldn’t care about. – Tim Jun 5 at 9:41
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    That tends to happen more in France i.e that the police will mediate a minor dispute, than in Britain. It is not unusual for a shop or restaurant send to the local Gendarmerie if there is a dispute. But then the number of French police per capita of population is vastly in excess of anything in the UK. They have to have something to occupy them. – WS2 Jun 5 at 12:22
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    @WS2 340 vs 211 is not a huge difference. The Vatican is 15,439 per 100,000 :) Source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – DavidPostill Jun 6 at 22:19
  • @DavidPostill Well it's 61% more. I think the Chief Constables could do a bit more with a further 76,000 officers. And I'm not even convinced that they have included all the different police forces in France. Where are the CRS? – WS2 Jun 6 at 22:42

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