Filming Cops Is The Best Accountability Tool: Officer Derek Chauvin Convicted Of Murder For Killing George Floyd
from the one-down,-hundreds-to-go dept
This isn’t an endpoint. This is only a beginning. This is one small step forward for accountability. It doesn’t change the police culture that not only allows, but encourages, this sort of force deployment. But it does send the warning that juries may not be as deferential to police officers as they’ve been historically.
To successfully prosecute a cop, you have to want to do it. Too many prosecutors would rather not expend the effort needed to hold their comrades-in-arms accountable for their actions. But every so often, a cop engages in such a callous display of violence, even those normally on the side of law enforcement can’t condone their actions.
That’s what happened to former-officer, current-convicted-murderer Derek Chauvin. Thanks to bystanders and their recording devices — especially then-17-year-old Darnella Frazier, whose recording of the 10-minute ordeal was instrumental in building a case against Chauvin — this one cop wasn’t able to escape the consequences of his actions. For nearly 10 minutes, Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck. He ignored Floyd’s increasingly-distressed statements that he couldn’t breathe. He ignored a fellow officer who informed him he could no longer detect a pulse. He remained in place, looking for all the world like the personification of every racist policy this nation has enacted, until George Floyd was dead.
And for that callous and reckless display of power, Derek Chauvin will be going to jail. The Minneapolis jury convicted him of all three counts. Here’s the recording of that moment, which cathartically includes the cuffing of Chauvin by sheriff’s deputies.
There are three counts, but Chauvin will only be sentenced for the most serious charge: second-degree unintentional murder. That’s perhaps still unsatisfactory (nothing about Chauvin’s actions appeared to be “unintentional”) but it’s better than we’ve come to expect from our criminal justice system when it’s forced to address the actions of law enforcement officers.
Let’s not forget that without the recordings made at the scene by citizens and nearby surveillance cameras, it’s likely no charges would have been filed.
This is how the Minneapolis PD originally described a white cop pressing his knee into the neck of an unarmed black man until he was dead:
Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction
May 25, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress. Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.
Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.
At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.
Oh, and just in case you worried about this particular aspect…
No officers were injured in the incident.
The death was apparently unrelated to the act of violence perpetrated on George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. At least according to the Minneapolis PD, which whitewashed this press release and whitewashed it again before posting it. But once the videos started showing up on social media, it could no longer ignore what anyone could plainly see had happened. This wasn’t a “medical incident.” It was — as the jury declared — a murder.
Police reform efforts are still important. This blip on the zero-accountability radar shouldn’t be treated as a sign things are fixed. It shouldn’t even be an indicator that things are getting better. But hopefully some law enforcement agencies will recognize the public is, at best, unimpressed with their efforts and their careless disregard for all lives that aren’t “blue,” but especially those that aren’t white.