Convicting Killer Cops Isn't Enough: The sentencing of George Floyd's killer doesn't address deeper, systemic issues in policing.

AuthorGilmore, Brian

For many supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, the June 25 sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years in prison felt like the culmination of a hard struggle. His gruesome, caught-on-video murder of George Floyd sparked millions of people nationally and internationally to speak out on the issue of police violence and accountability.

But it was only one small landmark in a field of raging injustice.

In 2014, following the killing of Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that city became the epicenter for daily protests and dissent. The Black Lives Matter movement, born the year before, came into international focus. The officer who shot and killed Brown was not charged but left the Ferguson police force.

In April 2021, while Chauvin was on trial a few miles away, police pulled over a twenty-year-old Black man named Daunte Wright, purportedly for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, which the law deems improper. It was a petty, useless police stop and it predictably spiraled out of control.

The cops discovered an outstanding warrant and removed Wright from the vehicle. At some point, he jumped back into the car and tried pulling away. A police officer can be heard yelling "I'll tase you!" and "Taser!" before fatally shooting Wright with her handgun. He was unarmed and not posing a threat to anyone. The officer resigned and was charged with second-degree manslaughter; the case is pending.

Or consider the killing of Chinedu Okobi, thirty-six, in San Mateo County, California, in October 2018. Okobi was having a mental health episode in public. He was not armed or harming anyone, but he became apprehensive when swarmed by police officers on the sidewalk. Several police officers surrounded him and used their tasers; Okobi went into cardiac arrest and died. The officers were never charged.

Okobi's sister, Ebele Okobi, an attorney with Facebook, said her brother was "tortured to death, with absolute impunity."

Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson, in his 2020 book Criminology Explains Police Violence, tabulated that there are between 900 and 1,000 on-duty police killings each year. Of that number, approximately seven officers have been convicted of murder in the United States since 2005. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites.

These metrics of police shootings are drenched in the toxicity of U.S. racism, which also drives...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT