Derek Chauvin Represents Everything that is Wrong with Policing

Police Reform now!

Derek Chauvin was sentenced today to 22.5 years in prison. After being found guilty on all three counts for the murder of George Floyd, the country waited with bated breath for a sentence to fit the crime. The judge handed down the 22.5 years despite testimony from George Floyd’s family. The family had hoped their words of anguish and hardship would sway the judge. The prosecution had wanted Chauvin to be given at least 30 years. The judge will provide details behind the sentence at a later date.

Chauvin’s actions are a stark reminder of how policing in this country has been a nightmare for African Americans. Since the era of slavery, the slave catchers, a precursor to the police, have made life in America one long series of injustices after another. African Americans have been beaten, hung, shot, and imprisoned. We receive harsher sentences than white criminals who commit the same offenses. A vast majority of African Americans, men, and women make up a sizable percentage of the prison population.

As witnessed by millions across the country and around the world, George Floyd, an African American man, was stopped by the police after a clerk had called them to their convenience store. After a conversation, things escalated between Floyd and the officers. Floyd was grabbed and walked to the squad car. A crowd began to gather as Floyd was then wrestled to the ground. Chauvin then placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck.

Despite begging to be let up and pleading with Chauvin, Floyd was pinned to the street for over 9 minutes. Floyd repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe. He was heard in the video calling for his deceased mother. Mamy in the crowd asked Chauvin to release Floyd. Chauvin ignored their requests, continuing to pin Floyd to the ground. The other three officers assisted Chauvin by holding down Floyd’s back and legs.

This abuse of power led to Floyd’s death. Medical aid came too late to save Floyd who was pronounced dead at the hospital. His death sparked a wave of protests and riots across Minneapolis and across the country. There were protests in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Boston. His death sent shockwaves around the world. People marched in support of Black lives in Germany, London, and Paris. Floyd’s death had brought the plight of Black people to the global stage.

Police officers are trained to protect and serve. But that isn't the case in America. We live in two Americas. Police protect the wealthy and white. Police harassed and kill the poor and Black. Many officers will swear they don’t treat Black communities differently. However, statistics show otherwise.

I see twice as many patrol cars in communities of color. When I’m in the suburbs, I hardly see any patrol cars. While Black and Brown children play in parks and playgrounds, patrol cars are stationed nearby. In many shopping centers in urban communities, officers can be seen walking through the area. This is not the case in the suburbs.

Police reform is needed. Police officers should undergo mental health checks. Police officers should not be judges, juries, and executioners in communities of color. Policing needs to be done in conjunction with community leaders. Police officers need to treat Black and Brown citizens with dignity and respect. Black lives matter and police departments need to ensure that we matter to them.

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Shirley Jones Luke

Shirley Jones Luke

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Shirley is a poet and writer. Ms. Luke enjoys reading, fashion and travel. She is working on a manuscript of her poems and an essay collection.