For roughly 9 1/2 minutes this past May, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck visualized what Black and brown communities in America have known for centuries.
Floyd couldn’t breathe. Anyone who watched that video with a conscience couldn’t breathe. The jury made the right decision in convicting Chauvin on all three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
But the charges Chauvin faced were limp in comparison to what we all saw. Putting one police officer behind bars for decades will not bring back Floyd’s life, and one jury’s decision that was a long time coming also is not enough to institute systemic changes in American policing.
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Tuesday.
We agree. Justice has yet to be served and Virginia can serve as a laboratory for change to get closer to real reform.
Immediately after the Chauvin verdict was announced, calls to pass the national George Floyd Justice in Policing Act grew louder. But this past October, Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly were proactive in implementing some potential solutions.
Effective March 1 of this year, Virginia instituted a ban on no-knock warrants, limits on the use of neck restraints, statewide training standards on racial bias and de-escalation, and more.
Come July 1, Virginia localities will be able to give investigative powers to civilian review boards. The state also will finalize a comprehensive plan to implement the “Marcus Alert” system, which adds behavioral health teams to support law enforcement in cases where individuals might face a mental health crisis.
The Chauvin verdict is confirmation that reform is the right pursuit — the only pursuit — to reverse case after case of disproportionate treatment that has torn apart Black and brown communities.
We need more than laws on the books. We need deeper reviews of situations that defy humanity. George Floyd’s death defied humanity.
We need recruitment and training systems that rebuild trust and promote accountability from day one. Derek Chauvin had 18 prior complaints filed against him. That’s not accountability.
And we need policing that promotes public safety for everyone. Only then will justice be served.
— Chris Gentilviso