It finally happened; Derek Chauvin was convicted of the heinous death of George Floyd. The callousness with which he held him under his knee was palpable as people watched the eight-minute and forty-six-second video. Many had no idea that Mr. Floyd was subdued under Mr. Chauvin’s knee for nearly ten minutes. This and so much more was uncovered during the trial to the shock of those brave enough to watch.
Watching a trial like this is an emotional drain, and not-guilty verdicts in cases like these are the root of the multi-generational trauma many black citizens carry. We have seen black people killed and brutalized on video by police officers with impunity for years. In the last decade, black Americans have seemingly become the target of heinous murders surrounded by murky details and circumstances.
Even with the whole interaction filmed, police officers have faced little to no professional consequences or jail time. When police veteran Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright, she resigned before charges were filed. By now, citizens know that a resignation guarantees that officers can receive their pension after an investigation clears them. Once fired, an officer loses it all, something rarely seen in these cases.
The use of force against black people is not new. Law enforcement beat back the advancement of black citizens crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, known as “Bloody Sunday.” The inception of policing in America was after slavery as “slave patrols” and, if you look closely at some departments in America, the modus operandi is still the same. Citizens are seen as trespassers in the wrong neighborhood, criminals driving a stolen car beyond their means, or breachers of peace when demanding to know why they are being obtained.
Black citizens are often brutalized during encounters with officers while their white counterparts struggle and fight with arresting officers before being apprehended. Police officers have proven time and time again that they can use restraint, even in the most arduous situations. Why force is the initial response so often, we can’t help but suggest the attribution of systemic or even personal racism.
This case appealed to the sensibilities of humanity. The defense debated that everyone saw what they saw. Watching the video, you saw a man’s merciless death- an irrefutable fact. Chauvin’s remorseless defiance seemingly withered away as he invoked his fifth amendment right when it came time for him to speak for himself.
Waiting for the verdict was reminiscent of the George Zimmerman verdict. You just knew everything was in place to win a conviction, but the unease of a possible acquittal was just too much to bear. Unlike the Zimmerman verdict, Minneapolis got it right and to be frank, America HAD to get this right! In finding him guilty, the process begins of making it right, though it nor the historic civil settlement can make the Floyd family whole. America cannot shrink back and inhibit the process of reforming law enforcement.
Now is not the time to put citizens on the back burner once again. Police officers are not foot soldiers and cannot continue to terrorize the communities they are sworn to both protect and serve with impunity. This includes intimidation on the road such as: following behind drives for extended distances and running their license plates when they pull up behind them. The community doesn’t know who will respond to their 911 distress calls. Because they don’t know the responding officers and the officers don’t know them, officers like Aaron Dean impulsively shoot before asking questions. Tragic interactions like these have deprived the neighborhood, the greater community, and the world of a gift such as Atatiana Jefferson.
This is where you hear that not all police officers are ‘bad cops’. This is also where you will be reminded that not all black people are bad.
Far too often, injustice at the hands of police officers isn’t adjudicated, or officers win acquittals thanks to sloppy cases put together by the state or qualified immunity in other cases. This case was different. George Floyd wasn’t only under Derek Chauvin’s knee, he was held against his will under the influence of the pervasive misanthropy that has eroded the call and mission to protect and serve in many police departments.
Officers of the law see themselves as punishers for wrongdoing instead of upright upholders of the law. If looks could kill…well, look at Derek Chauvin’s face, it did! That look of lawlessness is frozen in the memories of anyone who watched that video. There is another look to be reminded of when you think of Derek Chauvin, though. The look of chagrin, confusion, and anxiety. Before he was led away in handcuffs, Mr. Chauvin’s eyes told a different story as he glared at the jury during the reading of the verdict.
We do indeed have a long way to go, but guilt on all three counts is one step in the right direction in a marathon for justice!