The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd nearly a year ago allowed many across nation to feel a sense of relief.
Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, setting off a wave of relief across the country. The death prompted a wave of worldwide peaceful protest and civil unrest and reexamination of racism and policing in the United States.
Until a jury announced Tuesday the verdict of guilty on all counts, the nation was on edge. There should not have been any suspense. The verdict should have been clear from the start. The case against Chauvin was clear and overwhelming.
Yet because of the nation’s history of racism and extreme reluctance to convict police officers of crimes, there remained some uncertainty on the outcome of the case.
Floyd died with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. A man was killed with callous disregard after an encounter with police over an alleged fake $20 bill.
In closing arguments, a prosecutor told jurors that Chauvin “had to know” he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as he cried over and over that he couldn’t breathe and finally fell silent.
Chauvin’s action was condemned by his fellow officer, his supervisor and the Minneapolis police chief. The medical evidence clearly showed that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck was the cause of death, not Floyd’s heart condition or drugs as suggested by the defense.
While there is a sense of relief and even jubilation there must also be a sense of renewed resolve to prevent more police killings of unarmed Black men and women over what are often misdemeanors and nonviolent disputes.
People should not lose their lives after traffic stops or for selling cigarettes on the street, a fake $20 bill, and in some cases while sitting in their own home.
President Joe Biden hailed the verdict, but said: “We can’t stop here.” Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, said racism was keeping the country from fulfilling its founding promise of “liberty and justice for all.”
“It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American,” she said. “It is holding our nation back from reaching our full potential.
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice,” she said.
Floyd’s family said they were relieved by the verdict but resolved to continue fighting for justice.
They are all right.
More needs to be done to hold bad police officers accountable. Even more needs to be done to reduce the negative encounters between police and the community they vowed to protect and serve. The police and the community should be working together to reduce crime and improve public safety.
Finally, the Chauvin verdict should give momentum to policing reform legislation that has been proposed in both the House and Senate.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)