The police officer who killed George Floyd in plain sight has been found guilty of murder.
It was a rare, but welcome outcome as the nation held its collective breath Tuesday afternoon, as a Minneapolis jury convicted Derek Chauvin of all three charges against him related to the May 2020 death of Floyd, including one charge each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Allies and activists expressed bittersweet relief at the decision, with groups gathering in major cities across the country to hear the news.. Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, called the verdict a “pivotal moment for America.” President Joe Biden said it showed that “no one should be above the law.” It will be another eight weeks until Chauvin is sentenced, and since the judge revoked his bail after the verdict, he will await sentencing in jail. Three other officers are also awaiting trial in relation to Floyd’s death, and will be tried together in August.
But this nation, as we all know, still has a long way to go.
One of the things that came up repeatedly from news commentators and civil rights advocates Tuesday after the verdict, was the need to pass the George Floyd Justice Policing Act HR7120.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has been described as the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives.
The bill cleared the House in the heat of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer but it died in the Senate. Now President Biden is pushing the bill again in the wake of the Chauvin verdict.
If Congress cannot pass this legislation, states may try to take it on themselves. Texas already considered it and met stiff opposition from police. And where states cannot pass such laws, cities might. New York City has started down that path.
Now with Biden behind the bill, and in the backwash of the Chauvin verdict, it is once again high profile.
The bill requires all law enforcement to undergo training “on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.” It also:
•Bans chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning chokeholds.
•Requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first.
•Changes the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was “reasonable” to whether the force was “necessary.”
•Bans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level.
•The legislation, backed by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), also would limit local police departments’ access to military-grade equipment that protestors say increases tensions during demonstrations.
•The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act also would require “federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.” Marked federal police vehicles would be required to have dashboard cameras.
•One of the most controversial parts of the law “enables individuals to recover damages in civil court when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement.”
•And the bill “creates a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.”
The White House says this is President Biden’s top police reform priority. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a co-sponsor of the act, said, “Today we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”
“This bill,” she said, “is part of George Floyd’s legacy.”