As I write this, Derek Chauvin’s trial has come to an end. A jury found him guilty on three counts of second degree unpremeditated murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The former Minnesota police officer could face up to 40 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd in a case that brought a pandemic-struck nation to its knees because of daily protests eventually reaching around the globe.
The facts speak for themselves: Chauvin restrained Floyd by holding the handcuffed man down on the ground, his knee on his neck, for 9 minutes, 49 seconds. Floyd begged for his life, called for his mother and, as a result of those 9 minutes, died.
But justice served in one case only highlights other cases where it’s yet to be found. And nothing can bring George Floyd back.
During the two weeks Chauvin was on trial, police officers across the nation killed a total of 64 people, according to The New York Times. The Times reports half of those killed were Black or Latino.
Just two of those cases:
In Minneapolis, an officer shot and killed Daunte Wright even as the nation’s attention was already focused on the city due to the Chauvin trial. Wright was 20 years old. His crime: expired registration. The officer who shot him, Kim Potter, claims she confused her gun for her Taser.
In Chicago, an officer killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was stopped after a report of gunshots in the area. The young boy had his hands in the air when he was killed by Officer Eric Stillman.
The videos of these deaths are heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching. We must find a solution. Yes, police officers are trained to respond quickly to emergencies, but the response cannot — must not — be: Shoot first and ask questions later. The police cannot act as judge, jury and executioner. Daunte Wright ran; they could have let him go. They had his license plate number, his address, his mother on the phone.
Policing in the United States has a troubled history — some departments have roots in chasing escaped slaves and putting down slave revolts. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it was the police who were violent: teargassing the crowds, using trained dogs and firehoses to stop peaceful protests.
Many of us don’t worry about the police interacting with us. We occasionally may have to pay a fine for speeding; we might have to appear in court if we let our insurance lapse. But most don’t think they could die because they haven’t made it to the DMV to update their registration or because someone with darker skin did something a few blocks away.
I don’t know what it’s like to be Black in America. But I deeply empathize with the anguish, grief and anger that the Black community feels as, time after time, Black brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, husbands and wives, are killed for the most minor of offenses — and in too many cases, merely for being Black.
The injustice haunts me; the pain is impossible to ignore.
We must do better. But doing better means acknowledging policing needs reform in every city across the country. In Colorado Springs, we have a newly formed commission to find solutions with the police. Let’s hope they make progress — for everybody’s sake.
In the meantime, nobody should have to mourn the unnecessary loss of life at the hands of an over-zealous police officer.
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