Police brutality and the lack of accountability: a reaction to the Derek Chauvin verdict

Macy Missigman, News and Features Editor

“I can’t breathe!” This is the statement George Floyd called out repeatedly as Former Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes and twenty nine seconds. This inappropriate and excessive use of force is what took George Floyd’s life at the age of 46. If you watch the devastating officer body cam footage and video footage from witnesses to the murder, you see a very distressed Floyd being pinned to the ground by the use of Former Officer Chauvin’s knee. In addition to pleading to Chauvin to stop, George Floyd called out to his mother. This is one of the last things Floyd cried out as he pleaded with Chauvin to take his knee off of his neck but Chauvin refused to do so.

In the video you can see the other involved officers asking Chauvin if Floyd should be turned on his side, but Chauvin disagreed and maintained the same position on Floyd’s neck. Later in the video you can hear spectators of the crime telling the officers that Floyd has become unresponsive. That, however, did not stop Chauvin from kneeling on the now lifeless George Floyd for about another two minutes.

This horrific crime is unfortunately not the first time the police have harmed and killed people of color (most of whom were unarmed). We saw Eric Garner die in 2014 while being put in a choke hold by police. Breonna Taylor died in 2020 at the hands of police after they fatally shot her. You can also look at the cases of Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. These police brutality cases have caused nationwide outrage for reasons relating to racism and the blatant lack of care for Black and brown bodies. All of the police brutality victims I listed above were Black. The officers that killed them, White. Not something that is a coincidence

Over a year after the murder of George Floyd, Former Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the following three charges: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. This is an extremely important verdict for many reasons.

First, in the other police brutality cases I mentioned, none of the officers were prosecuted for their respective murders. The verdict is also important because it holds officers accountable and displays that they are not above the law. It also shows people that actions like these are not acceptable and are simply unjust.

With the rise of brutality cases, this verdict will hopefully get people to see the magnitude of what Black and brown communities have to face at the hands of police. My hope is that this verdict will start a new legal precedent and lead to 1. Accountability and 2. The end of police brutality.

Following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, Le Moyne sent out an email titled “Reaction to the Derek Chauvin Verdict.” In my opinion, addressing the verdict was the only right thing to do. Although Le Moyne is a predominantly White Institution, the college’s Jesuit values and emphasis on social justice require them to take a hands on approach and condemn such overt racism and hate.

In a portion of the statement the college put out it states, “These relentless tragedies [murder of George Floyd and other police brutality cases] and subsequent conversations on race have revealed a common truth that anti-black racism is still, even after 400 years of trauma, woven into the fabric of our country. We see racism in the structure of our schools, in health and living disparities, and in an economic structure that benefits certain groups and excludes others. And we see racism in our policing and legal systems.”

I think this further explains why the verdict does not equal justice. There are so many other forms of structural, institutional racism put into place that unfortunately, one verdict does not simply get rid of the years and years of continued racism, inequality, and oppression of Black and brown bodies.

In addition to Le Moyne’s statement, I wanted to hear from other voices in the Le Moyne community regarding the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. With that, I talked with the newly elected SGA Director of Club Development, Osabohien Oduwa. Oduwa echoed many of my opinions regarding the case.

Why is the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial so important and what further implications does it have?

“I think the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial is so important because it reminds people that there are consequences to your actions. If you commit wrongdoing while doing your job, you must be held accountable. This country is built on the ideal that nobody is above the law. Not the President, the Mayor, the Sheriff, the town Doctor, you, or me. I think that the guilty ruling will establish a strong precedent that police officers can be guilty for a crime they commit while on the clock. The trend of police officers getting off the hook ends here (I hope).”

Does the verdict equal justice?

“I don’t think it completely does. Justice cannot be achieved by just one ruling. If a law couldn’t stop racism, a court ruling can’t either. However, it is a big step towards achieving racial justice in our country, nobody can deny that.”

What happens from here? As Oduwa ended his interview with, “I sincerely hope there can come a time where police brutality and racism is distant history.”

I too hope this can happen. For this to happen I believe we need more guilty verdicts and accountability from the officers who take advantage of the power that comes with their job. We need police reform. We need more outrage; protests can’t just come from Black and brown communities who are tired of seeing our people being harmed and killed. We need more allies. We need the conversations to keep happening. We can’t keep living in a society where there are people who are complacent with the horrible treatment of minority groups.