Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” had special meaning when former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all charges.
It showed that legal-savvy arguments in a court of law sometimes cannot betray what the eyes see; in this case, the infamous video taken a year ago of Chauvin placing his knee on the neck of George Floyd for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
In addition to the video, jurists learned that medical examiners found the cause of Floyd’s death was cardiopulmonary arrest due to neck compression.
Strengthening the prosecution’s case, police officers testified that Chauvin used excessive force. A police chief (Chauvin’s superior) and other top cops and brass all testified against Chauvin.
Their testimonies alone, should have police unions and police precincts across the nation pleased with this verdict alongside Black Lives Matter and policing reform advocates.
Justice was served that day, or as others have been using and is perhaps a more appropriate word, “accountability” rendered.
However monumental this Chauvin verdict is, most sociologists and legal experts agree that there is still much to do moving forward. The frequency of police killings alone reveals there is larger systemic problem. In fact, sandwiched between the Chauvin case were also high-profile incidences.
The Chauvin verdict happened on April 20, 2021. About a week “before” the verdict, police shot and killed Daunte Wright who was pulled over for a traffic violation. As Daunte attempted to flee after police tried to arrest him, an officer said to have mistaken her taser for a gun, shot Daunte.
In another incident less than a week “after” the Chauvin verdict, Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by police. Both Daunte and Andrew were Black and circumstances surrounding those shootings also suggest fatal force could have been avoided. These are just two high profile cases. In the month of April alone, there were over 40 people who were killed at the hands of law enforcement.
A study by Rutgers University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Michigan found that African Americans are around twice as likely to be killed by police as white Americans.
While there are ample studies showing police racial profiling and abuse is real, we don’t have to wait for or read these studies. Social media postings of police racial profiling and abuse captured by cell phones are common, and in part responsible for raising greater awareness of how big a problem this is.
Police killings occur in other racial communities as well, last year alone, 1021 people were shot and killed by law enforcement, which is yet another reason why policing reform should not be looked upon as just a Black community problem, but it should be a call for justice by us all.
Remember Fil-Am Angelo Quinto
The Filipino community is still awaiting the outcome of an investigation of Angelo Quinto’s death who died after a police officer placed his knee on the neck of Quinto (like Floyd). In that incident, police were not even responding to a crime. Officers were called to the Quinto residence by Angelo’s sister who was concerned over her brother’s mental well-being. The police officer used the dangerous knee-to-neck restraint — already condemned by many including by law enforcement from the Floyd video – which also allegedly resulted in Quinto dying.
Pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
It’s high time that a federal comprehensive law that addresses and makes clearer police misconduct, the use of excessive force, and civil rights and racial bias in policing.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is such a bill. The US House passed the Floyd Act by 220-212 earlier this year, but it currently sits at the US Senate where it hasn’t been taken up because Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer knows Democrats do not have the votes (as of press time) to move forward.
Several police chiefs from the largest precincts have already acknowledged a need for policing reform. But unfortunately, the issue of police reform has been politicized by Republican politicians to one of — the “Police versus BLM,” which is completely unnecessary.
Look at the Chauvin trial, most top rank and file law enforcement agreed with the verdict. The National Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union which represents more than 350,000 police officers, called the trial “fair” and said “due process was served.”
The fact is everyone benefits from enhanced policing and it should be supported by both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly. Some provisions in the Act like the required use of body-worn and dashboard cameras not only protects those being arrested, but also protects police officers from potential false accusations.
Right-wing media have gone so far as to misrepresent the term “Defund” the police to mean that Democrats want to dismantle policing altogether, which is just spin and a lie. Defund the Police basically means government should spend more on programs that lift communities out of poverty such as education, jobs retraining and other areas that have due to inadequate funding contribute to systemic racism. And if need be, it should spend less money on punitive enforcement.
In some districts, policing is a hugely disproportionate part of their budget. The campaign “Defund the police” is easily weaponized by the Right and is a marketing failure. The more appropriate term some are using is “Reimagine policing.”
Let’s stop listening to partisans on this issue. We support our police officers and acknowledge the important work they do. Most calling for reform has this opinion. Just as every other institution – government or business – the police should implement improvements where needed. Given the police’s potential to affect deadly force (no other institution is bestowed this power besides the military), it’s even more important that safeguards are in place to ensure the highest standards of professionalism.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act should pass. It’s so clear why this should not be a partisan issue.