(MINNEAPOLIS) – Yesterday, day a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges against him for the murder of George Floyd. This verdict should not have come as a surprise, especially in light of the video showing Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds until he died.
Yet this outcome was hardly a forgone conclusion. As the work of the Innocence Project demonstrates, our criminal legal system too often convicts, incarcerates, and executes the innocent while simultaneously sanctioning police misconduct and turning a blind eye to long-standing and well-documented racial bias.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin is no substitute for the deep and deliberate changes we need to prevent further police killings and misconduct.
Regardless of this verdict, one truth remains: George Floyd should still be alive today. Justice requires all of us to examine the failures of our system that led to his horrifying death and commit to making the structural changes necessary to restore trust and achieve fairness and equality.
A memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Image: munshots/Unsplash)
So, how do we bend the moral arc of history closer toward justice?
By acknowledging and confronting the racism deeply embedded in our laws, policies, and practices.
And by addressing the culture of police exceptionalism that offers law enforcement special protections and privileges not afforded to ordinary people.
Reigning in police protections, greater transparency around police disciplinary records, the abolition of qualified immunity, and the elimination of police contracts that create different levels of presumption of innocence for police and the public are just a start.
We need structural changes in policing. Race must no longer serve as a proxy for criminality. We must demand more at every level of the criminal legal system.