Editorial: Derek Chauvin convicted on all counts for murder of George Floyd

Last week, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd.

Chauvin was found guilty on April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The jury debated three charges for 10 hours, which suggested that they came to their decision without much hesitation or needed deliberation.

Criminal charges against police officers are extremely rare. This was only the second time that a police officer in Minnesota had been convicted of murder for actions that took place on the job.

Most people think the verdict was the right decision. According to a USA Today-Ipsos poll, 71% of Americans agree the verdict was correct. The Minneapolis police chief testified that Chauvin’s actions were against department policy and are not something officers are trained to do.

However, if the incident had not been recorded, the reality is the outcome could have been very different. Chauvin may not have been convicted, or he may not have even been prosecuted at all.

An early press release from the Minneapolis Police Department described an event that is different than what the world saw.

“Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance,” the release reads. “He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

The release goes on to say no weapons were used in the incident, and that the officers involved were wearing body cameras.

This description of the event is very different from what the world witnessed. The world heard Floyd’s pleas for help while handcuffed and laying on the ground. The world heard Floyd saying that he couldn’t breathe. The world heard Floyd begging for his mother to help him.

They saw Chauvin carelessly kneeling on Floyd’s neck, refusing the pleas of onlookers to get off. They saw three other police officers, who were unwilling to step in and save Floyd’s life.

Had someone not filmed Floyd’s death, and had the officers involved not worn body cameras, it would have been much easier for the Minneapolis police department to stick to their original story. At that point, it would be the officer’s word against the bystanders.

Though Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced in the coming weeks, there is still more that needs to be done.

Body cameras must become standard for all police officers. A police misconduct registry would make it easier to track misconduct complaints, discipline records and termination records for officers, so an officer who is fired for misconduct cannot be rehired by a new department. Ending qualified immunity for officers would make it easier for them to be held responsible for misconduct on the job.

While Chauvin’s guilty verdict was the right decision, much more will be needed to increase the public’s trust in the police.