Shortly before jurors returned to the courtroom on Tuesday, George Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross was asked by television reporters what it would mean to secure convictions on the three charges against the former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin.
“It will mean a change,” she said through nervous tears. And that maybe we the people “can start believing in righteousness again.”
After deliberating for less than 12 hours, the jury found Chauvin guilty of manslaughter, second degree murder and third degree murder for using his knee to pin a terrified Floyd to concrete until he he stops breathing.
Chauvin could spend up to 40 years in prison. His conviction will come later, but for now it was extremely cathartic to sit on my couch and watch him blink in confusion before being taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
“Amen” is what my mother said, nodding her head like old black women do.
Indeed, justice has been served, for once. But once is not enough.
Cops like Chauvin, who are so arrogant that they think they have the right to intimidate, assault and kill blacks and Latin Americans with impunity, cannot continue to be so common in American police. What happened to Chauvin, who was convicted of breaking the same laws that those of us without a badge must follow, also cannot be the exception.
President Biden accurately described the result in Minneapolis as “far too rare” for what was essentially a “core responsibility” to the public.
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Or as Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the Floyd family, said at a press conference, “The whole world shouldn’t have to come together to get justice for one man.”
The other family lawyer, Ben Crump, then presented what happened on Tuesday as a “precedent” for overcoming systemic oppression. And, during a phone call with those close to Floyd, Vice President Kamala Harris vowed that “we’ll make sure his legacy is intact, and history will turn to that moment and know it was. a moment of inflection. ”
I would like to believe it. But I also know that if we’re not careful America will easily fall back into the status quo, with millions upon millions of dollars going to law enforcement to allow more agents like Chauvin to intimidate. and brutalize communities of color.
The enactment of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would certainly help prevent this. Harris, who helped introduce the bill when she was a senator, called it “a start.” It would ban strangling, end “qualified immunity” and make it easier for cops to be held accountable by tracking those with a history of wrongdoing. He passed the House in March, but faces long struggles in the Senate.
Yet even if that passes, it would do nothing to slow the rise in the homicide rate nationwide – and the excuse the hike provides to rely on the same old flawed crime-cracking tactics, rather than reinventing police services, either by reducing departments, rebuilding them or rebuilding them. removing them completely.
Last year, fatal shootings jumped 46% across California, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a trend in predominantly black and brown communities that has manifested itself in other states as well – and continued until 2021.
It’s not hard to imagine police chiefs and sheriffs pushing for even more money, arguing they need to add officers and deputies to catch more criminals carrying guns. Nor is it difficult to imagine a majority of Americans demanding the same thing, out of fear, perhaps, or just out of habit.
After all, as I wrote earlier this week, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they’d rather fund police services in their communities entirely than shift some of that money to community programs, according to a recent Ipos poll.
To ever be able to truly view Chauvin’s conviction as a “precedent,” more people will have to let go of the idea that more cops equals more security. This is simply not true, especially in communities of color, which for decades have come under the brunt of over-policing.
In reality, more cops equal more George Floyds, more Daunte Wrights, and more Adam Toledos.
Fernando Rejón, executive director of the Urban Peace Institute, is right that we should build an ecosystem of community alternatives to law enforcement.
This includes the gang intervention, for which LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has offered to spend additional funds this year. And that includes programs like TURN, or Therapeutic Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods, which Garcetti says will recruit social workers and mental health experts to answer some calls that the Los Angeles Police Department is now responding to.
The aim of both is to reduce the possibilities of gun violence and police brutality.
“If you want sustainable, longer-term security, you have to create new systems,” Rejón said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
He blamed the outbreak of homicides on the trauma and economic fallout of the pandemic, noting that the neighborhoods where there have been the most shootings are the same neighborhoods where the most people have died from COVID-19. The fact that many outreach workers and case managers were sidelined also didn’t help, trying to follow public health guidelines on social distancing.
As we emerge from the pandemic, new thinking is needed. The same goes for funding.
For example, investments in gang intervention in California have remained largely stable for years. Meanwhile, police budgets have swelled at a time when crime has remained largely at low levels.
“I think part of the reason the funding for the intervention hasn’t increased in several years is because we were successful,” said Paul Carrillo, director of the Community Violence Initiative at the Center. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Now he and several others are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide more than the $ 9 million he set aside in January for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention program, which supports programs statewide.
Meanwhile, many community-based emergency response programs, such as Garcetti’s TURN, are funded locally. However, a bill from California Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) would create a state-funded grant initiative known as the CRISES Act, giving those programs that are created in cities across the state a much needed lift.
Oddly, last year Newsom vetoed an earlier version of the bill, also introduced by Kamlager. It cannot happen again.
Harris, speaking alongside Biden on Tuesday, acknowledged what should be clear to everyone by now. That “black Americans and black men in particular have been treated throughout our history as less than human.”
“Their lives must be valued in our education system,” she continued, “in our health care system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our country.
Sometimes that means we have to stop investing in old and broken systems and start building and investing in new ones.