Two broad systemic problems exist in law enforcement. One is the training and policies themselves which are often inadequate, wrong, and/or needlessly violent. That doesn't seem applicable with respect to Chauvin, who violated his training and policies. The other is the "Thin Blue Line" - the propensity of police officers' colleagues, departments, and unions doing everything possible to cover up their wrongdoing and protect them from consequences. That's why Chauvin wasn't fired a long time before he murdered George Floyd, and that's why he wasn't afraid to murder George Floyd with his body camera and bystanders filming it. But in the face of unprecedented global outrage, the Thin Blue Line fell apart. He was fired and arrested - not placed on paid leave - and then his former chief and various other cops threw him under the bus in court and testified that what he did was wrong.
We all know that what he did was wrong. Some people are doing everything in their power to pretend they don't know that what he did was wrong, but they do. Hence the power of the prosecution's simple plea to jurors: "Believe your eyes." The defense's attempts at rationalizing away the obvious were pretty pathetic, but they served their purpose. Even a monster like Chauvin was entitled to the due process that he denied his victim. But I think he knew he was screwed. He was ready to enter a plea deal within days of his arrest last year. He didn't bother testifying for himself. His testimony would have probably only made things worse, because it would have been something like "George Floyd's life was worth less to me than a mosquito's, and I did nothing wrong and I'm not sorry."
The prosecution summed up his attitude during the murder: "The defendant was not going to be told what to do. He was not going to let the bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted. How he wanted for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing - nothing they could do about it. Because he had the authority. The bystanders were powerless. They were powerless to do anything. The defendant, he chose pride over policing." And that is exactly what I mean when I speak of the need to "put police officers in their place". Their place is serving and protecting the public like they promised to do when they chose that line of work. Their place is not to be a law unto themselves. And for some reason, that's so controversial that 45% of Republicans disagree with Chauvin's conviction. 45%. Almost half of Republicans support cold-blooded murder as long as the person doing it is a cop. I'm surprised it's only that many.
The three other participants in the murder will stand trial later this year. I actually feel bad for the two rookies. They were on the job for days before this happened, and I can understand if they weren't brave enough to stand up to a 19-year police veteran doing something they knew was wrong. Thomas Lane suggested they should move George Floyd onto his side instead of his stomach, but Chauvin said it was fine. They should certainly have lighter sentences and maybe they should be acquitted together - that's for people more familiar with the evidence to decide, and I hope that decision will be correct. Tou Thao, on the other hand, is another violent cop who should have been fired and arrested a long time ago. Years ago the city of Minneapolis had to settle a lawsuit after he beat up a black man for no reason at all. Convict that mofo.
As I watched the post-trial press conferences I shed a few tears at how many people worked so hard for so long to bring Chauvin to justice. I she a few tears when Al Sharpton spoke and then led a bunch of people in prayer right there on live secular television. The prayer was a little different than I'm used to in my religious tradition, but it was as heartfelt as any I've seen. This is a man that in my conservative past I would have disparaged as a race-baiter. I was touched, and then I realized how messed up it is that all these people and their contributions were necessary to convict one cop. For a murder that the entire world saw, no less. Chauvin might very well be a free man today if a teenager hadn't been brave enough to film him. This case needs to set a precedent that will increase the pace of systemic change going forward. It needs to become a hingepoint in this nation's history for race relations and law enforcement alike. George Floyd should still be alive, but since he's not, we have a chance to make sure his death wasn't in vain.
At a minimum, it's angered a lot of terrible people, so at least I can take satisfaction in that.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.