It's been one year since the tragic death of George Floyd.
On May 25, 2020, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — who was found guilty on all counts in the murder of Floyd in April — was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes as Floyd, who was handcuffed, laid face down on the ground and cried out "I can't breathe."
Floyd's murder sparked protests around the world as millions called for justice not only in his case but also for the countless other Black Americans who have been killed by police officers. Additionally, Floyd's death initiated the nation’s so-called reckoning with racial injustice and policing as millions of Americans vowed to "listen and learn" about systemic racism as well as their white privilege; companies released statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, made donations to racial justice organizations, and promised to ramp up diversity in hiring; and at all levels of government, politicians vowed to implement laws, proposals, and/or public directives to address police misconduct and systemic racism.
While some changes have been made at both the state and city levels — since May 2020, at least 67 police reforms ranging from police-worn body cameras to use of force restrictions have been signed into law in 25 states, AP reports — what some have called "a fundamental shift" in policing culture, and the laws that protect the officers, has yet to be reached.
“Even in jurisdictions where restraints and chokeholds are banned, as a practical matter there’s no consequence when officers engage in those bad practices,” Paul Weber, a former federal prosecutor and author of the book, Chokehold: Policing Black Men, told AP. “A statewide ban would apply to more departments -- but again, the policies aren’t going to be more effective than the enforcement.”
As noted by the outlet, Floyd's death even prompted many states to give police even more authority.
In Minneapolis specifically, the city has taken some steps to address its policing issue:
- In June 2020, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to ban chokeholds and neck restraints from police operations. This was also part of a stipulation between the city and the Minneapolis Department of Human Services, which launched a civil rights investigation after Floyd's death. That same month, a Hennepin County judge ordered the city to implement six measures in compliance with the Minnesota State Department of Human Rights. Such measures include requiring officers to intervene if they see an "improper use of force" and the police chief making timely and transparent disciplinary actions.
- Minneapolis additionally passed a new policy on June 28 that requires officers involved in "critical incidents" to not review body camera footage before finishing their police report in order to provide transparency around an officer's actions, according to Mayor Jacob Frey.
- Frey and the Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have also introduced a new policy that required officers to report de-escalation attempts in July 2020. Officers must also describe the impacts and why those efforts were used.
- The city council unanimously voted to rename the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to "George Floyd Square," which is near the spot of Floyd's fatal arrest.
- Toward the end of August 2020, Frey and Arradondo announced a new policy that mandated officers use the lowest level of force necessary to get a situation safely under control.
- Mayor Frey agreed to cut nearly $8 million to the police budget in December 2020, shifting those funds toward violence prevention and mental health response initiatives. The police department had an overall budget of $179 million, according to NPR.
- In March this year, the council resubmitted a proposal to amend Minneapolis' charter. This amendment would replace the city police department with the Minneapolis Department of Public Safety.
- Some community-led public safety efforts have also launched in the last year, including community groups, which consist of volunteers, that are creating and running alternatives to police.
At a federal level, a number of legislative proposals have been made, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The Act was passed in the House earlier this year but has struggled to gain support in the Senate. With the Act, chokeholds and no-knock warrants would be banned. The Act would also end qualified immunity for police officers.
Despite the above "changes," around 1,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in the United States since May 2020, according to a report from the Center for America Progress, per the Washington Informer. The CAP even noted that the figure, “while staggering, is almost certainly an underestimate of the total number of civilian deaths in the custody of the criminal justice system.”
“Our nation urgently needs to confront the scourge of police violence against communities of color. Yet for decades, the government has failed to track the number of deaths that occur in the justice system,” associate director for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, Betsy Pearl, explained. “While data collection alone can’t end systemic racism in our justice system and can’t bring back the countless lives lost, it’s essential for laying the groundwork to create real accountability and justice for all.”
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