The Los Angeles Police Department has opened an internal investigation after an inappropriate image of George Floyd, the man killed in police custody in Minneapolis last year, was reported to have been circulated in the department, officials said.
The image was styled in an unspecified Valentine-like format with the words “You take my breath away,” according to an internal memo posted on Twitter and what Chief Michel Moore told The Los Angeles Times on Saturday.
“The department is aware of the inappropriate post and a complaint has been initiated, and, due to personnel matters, we are unable to comment further,” said Officer Rosario Cervantes, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department. Another spokeswoman, Stacy D. Spell, confirmed that “an administrative personnel investigation has been initiated” but that she could not comment on its specific details.
George Floyd, a Black man, died in May after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground under the knee of Derek Chauvin, who was then a police officer in Minneapolis, for more than nine minutes. In video footage, Mr. Floyd can be heard uttering the words “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. Mr. Chauvin, 44, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Mr. Floyd’s killing incited a social justice movement nationwide as people marched for weeks in cities — including Los Angeles — across the country, protesting police brutality and systemic racism. The marches were largely peaceful, though at times the protests descended into chaos and violence, with looting and the burning of buildings.
In Los Angeles, the protests called to mind the riots that had occurred nearly 30 years earlier after four police officers were acquitted of assault for the beating of Rodney King. The beating, which happened in 1991, was captured on film and was one of the first viral videos of a Black man being abused by the police.
The Police Department said on Twitter on Saturday that it was aware of suggestions that the image of Mr. Floyd “was being passed around the department and this image was in the workplace” and that it might have been “authored by a department employee.”
The employee who brought the image to the attention of officials will be interviewed, the department said.
It added that the department had not identified “any actual postings in the workplace or identified that it was in fact our department employee who created the image,” but it had directed commands to “survey the worksites for it.”
If the image is found, “any employee or supervisor is directed to take possession and identify those present,” the Police Department said. “The Department will have zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
Chief Moore came under fire after he referred to looters and said during a virtual briefing in June that the death of Mr. Floyd “is on their hands as much as it is on those officers.”
“And that is a strong statement,” Chief Moore added.
He later apologized on Twitter: “While I did immediately correct myself, I recognize that my initial words were terribly offensive. Looting is wrong, but it is not the equivalent of murder and I did not mean to equate the two. I deeply regret and humbly apologize for my characterization.”
He added, “Let me be clear: The police officers involved were responsible for the death of George Floyd.”
The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced in June that his administration would seek to cut $100 million to $150 million from the Police Department’s budget and look for ways to spend it on other community programs.
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.