Yesterday, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin’s conviction resolves one incident. It’s a big step forward, but it’s just one step.
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Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo, with his hands raised, was killed by police.
Daunte Wright, shot by police 11 miles from where George Floyd was killed.
Army Lt. Caron Nazario was stopped and pepper sprayed.
Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray… and the list goes on.
Sadly, Rodney King’s plea, “Can we all just get along,” remains just as relevant and unattainable as it did more than 50 years ago. After King was savagely beaten by 4 Los Angeles police officers caught on a disturbing video the acquittal of the 4 ignited a riot in South Los Angeles where stores were looted, destroyed and burned. Some residents pulled both White and Latinos from cars and beat them.
King’s plea for unity came at the height of the turmoil to help calm a city in crisis. Today, Asians are randomly attacked.
This insanity continues to grip a country divided by race, politics and a host of other issues. While mass murders are typically the result of lone wolf attackers, police shootings strongly suggest institutional racism.
What’s the answer?
In a report by Samuel Sinyangwe entitled “Examining the Role of Use of Force Policies in Ending Police Violence,” and released in 2016 for the Use of Force Project, police departments can adopt eight policies that limit how police can use force:
1.Requiring officers to de-escalate before using force;
2. Using guidelines defining the types of force that can be used to respond to specific situations;
3. Restricting or banning chokeholds and strangleholds;
4. Requiring a verbal warning before using deadly force;
5. Prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles except in extreme circumstances;
6. Requiring officers to exhaust other options before resorting to deadly force;
7. Establishing a duty by officers to intervene if one of their colleagues is using excessive force;
8. Requiring officers to report all uses of force or attempted use of force.
“Departments with four or more of these policies in place had 38% fewer police-involved killings per arrest than those with one or none, Sinyangwe found.”
But when it comes to mass shootings there are no easy answers. Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof offers some perspective and a guide for change.
Early this morning, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department will investigate police practices in Minneapolis — another big step forward.
Chauvin’s conviction is a big step forward, but it’s just one step in the course of many that need to be taken if we are ever to move out of the darkness of racism and into the light of unity.