'We grieve with the Floyd family': Police meet Chauvin verdict with cheers, fears, uncertainty
The jury's guilty verdicts verified the overwhelming public opinion that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, when he knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes and ignored pleas for him to stop.
But where do we go from here?
"As our community reflects on this event, we at the Elgin Police Department join in your contemplation.
"This moment matters," Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley posted on Facebook, condemning the "reprehensible actions" of Chauvin. "Know that the Elgin Police Department remains deeply committed to our community, not just in words, but in our actions, as we collectively continue to listen, learn, and grow. We join with you, striving for our absolute best every day, serving and protecting with the utmost professionalism and integrity."
Does the verdict give us faith that police will uphold justice and act as professionals, or does it reinforce fears that "bad apples" still remain in a system under fire? Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the Justice Department is launching a civil investigation to see if the Minneapolis Police Department "engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing."
Good cops don't want to be sullied by bad cops.
"A bad police officer is no longer wearing a badge," said an email responding to the Chauvin's convictions from Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black, who is president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. "As a profession, we must not tolerate hate, discriminatory practices or abuses of power. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police is committed to collaboratively working with our lawmakers and the citizens we serve to effectuate positive change and build trust within our communities. It is my sincere hope that we can slowly begin to heal as a nation."
Healing didn't arrive with the verdict. It's a process.
Will this case convince people that a positive change is happening, or might it reinforce the belief that the entire system is corrupt? And how does that affect the patrol officers on the streets?
"Those who use this verdict as a launching pad to paint all law enforcement unfavorably, that is the kind of reaction that is bad for morale. We'll just have to see," said Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. "I don't know of any police officers who condoned what happened in the George Floyd case. In all cases like this we say, 'Let the process play out.' In this case, the process played out and justice was served."
Even as law enforcement changes, the perusal of their actions has been made so much more likely because of cellphone videos, such as the one that played a key role in Chauvin's convictions.
"I don't know anyone who would say they'd welcome someone videoing everything you do at work, but cops are doing the right thing most of the time, so having that on video, why not?" Wojcicki said.
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said he supports a bodycam system that activates the cameras of every officer at the scene whenever one pulls out a gun or Taser. "I want the public to see exactly what we're doing from every angle," he said. Calling Floyd's murder an "atrocity," Mendrick said his deputies are getting training in avoiding violent confrontations.
"Anything that can drop the level of force is desired," Mendrick said, adding that Tasers give officers an option between bare hands and a deadly gun. As an officer, he carried a Taser for 11 years. "I never had to pull the trigger," said Mendrick, who would explain the Taser to offenders. "Please don't make me do this."
DuPage County deputies also are getting training in how to deal with mental health issues, crisis intervention and diversity training with the NAACP. Interviews with inmates showed that one of the major reasons for confrontations is when police ask people of color for identification without probable cause. "We're using that to guide our training," Mendrick said.
"Following the death of Mr. Floyd, I mentioned the nationwide hole it created in the moral fabric of the community-police relationship, noting Mr. Floyd's death would not be in vain," said a statement from Lake County Sheriff John D. Idleburg, who said Floyd's death was unnecessary and unacceptable. "While I have no doubt my staff would intervene if they witnessed another deputy or an outside agency police officer using excessive force, I codified the expectation in our policy with a mandated duty to intervene to stop excessive force and immediately report it."
"Operating in an unethical manner has no place in our office, or in the profession, and it will not be tolerated," Idleburg said. "We continue to grieve with the Floyd family."