The guilty verdict handed down to disgraced Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd was a very significant verdict for the Black community because White police officers have not been held accountable for their use of excessive force against Black men and women until now.
All over America, people of color know that just because there exists a video does not mean a conviction is guaranteed. There was a video in Eric Garner’s murder in New York in 2014, and there was a video in the Rodney King beating at the hands of Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
In April 2021, Dante Wright was killed by police in Minnesota about 10 miles away from where George Floyd died after being stopped for a minor traffic violation.
Crump called on then-President-elect Biden to put in place “the George Floyd Policing and Accountability Act,” according to Court TV’s broadcast of the Dante Wright funeral.
People of color pray for justice, march for justice, protest for justice, but seldom receive justice. While White people routinely live the American Dream, people of color routinely live the American Nightmare.
Incarcerated individuals know more than most how unevenly the law is applied throughout the country.
The two-time Super Bowl champion Brandon Browner, who is incarcerated at San Quentin, said he was “glad to hear the guilty verdict,” but that he remained guarded and was waiting to see the sentence Chauvin receives this Friday on June 25.
The sentiment is shared with others at San Quentin, who are also waiting to see what happens to the three other officers who are yet to be tried.
When these kinds of incidents happen, and they cannot claim innocence, the narrative put forth in the media by the police goes something like this: this is the actions of a rogue cop and not indicative of the other police in the department.
People who have dealt with the criminal justice system know the opposite is true.
Tyler Woods, a novelist also incarcerated at San Quentin, knows first hand how police officers responsible for the death of unarmed suspects are treated. His 19-year-old son was shot 19 times and killed in 2013 by Long Beach police even though he was unarmed.
“There are many other people around the world who are in the same position, losing their loved ones at the hands of the police who did not receive justice because there was no video,” Woods said.
Cops like Chauvin and Stacey Koon from the Los Angeles Police Department, who was one of the four police officers responsible in the beating of Rodney King, are not oddities or the exceptions as their agencies would lead you to believe.
A bill that was introduced in California in 2020 by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) sought to make it a crime if officers stood by while one of their own brutalizes a suspect or crosses the line. Even though it was blocked in the Senate Appropriations Committee, this was an acknowledgment that cops bear responsibility for other cops’ bad behavior.
Prisoners here are waiting to see what happens to the other officers charged in the death of George Floyd. They took an oath to serve, protect and obey the law, yet they stood by and protected Chauvin while he murdered Floyd, then filed fake reports blaming the death on medical reasons.
None of the bad cops operate in a vacuum, but they act as if they are above the law, that they are the law and that they must be respected. They do not respect anyone else.
Hopefully the trial and verdict have far reaching implications and sets the tone for how incidents of police misconduct will be handled going forward.
Any real change remains a distant hope. After all, America is a country that has placed very little value on the lives of its Black citizens since its inception.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.