‘I Can’t Breathe’: Alexandria Police investigating display in police cruiser seemingly mocking police brutality victims

Alexandria Accountability footage of police vehicle with display seemingly mocking police brutality victims (image via ALX Accountability/YouTube)

(Updated 4:20 p.m.) A video posted this weekend by citizen journalism page Alexandria Accountability shows an Alexandria Police Department vehicle with a display in the passenger seat that seems to mock police brutality victims George Floyd and Eric Garner.

The Alexandria Accountability footage shows a propped-up figure with a cartoon pig head, a black domino mask, and a shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” — the last words of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man killed by a New York City Police Officer in 2014, and were said later by George Floyd in 2020 when he was murdered by Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

The phrase became a slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The officer assigned to the vehicle isn’t shown, but another officer accesses the car and removes the figure.

Police Chief Don Hayes and City Manager Jim Parajon released a joint statement:

The City of Alexandria Police Department and City leadership are aware of an officer’s cruiser that contained potentially offensive materials.

We apologize for the nature of this material. We honor the public trust by serving with integrity, civility, impartiality, and by holding ourselves accountable when we do not.

The Department has initiated an investigation of this isolated incident and will respond in accordance with personnel accountability procedures. We recognize the importance of maintaining public trust and will continue to ensure our conduct, collectively and as individual employees, is reflective of our commitment to serve all Alexandrians.

Alexandria leadership said the display in the video is unacceptable and that a full investigation is underway.

“It is clearly unacceptable,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “My understanding is the department is conducting a full investigation. Once that is complete we should have some more information.”

“We take this very seriously,” said City Council member Alyia Gaskins. “We will be investigating and will respond accordingly. While the investigation is ongoing and we are still awaiting more information, it is difficult for me to imagine a scenario where this demonstration contributes positively to the ongoing dialogue between the community and our police department.”

Alexandria Police Department previously shared messages of solidarity during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, with then-Chief Michael Brown penning an open letter sharing his outrage at the death of George Floyd.