The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd begins in Minneapolis, Minnesota.Chauvin, a white police officer, is charged with several offences including second-degree murder, third-degree murder and man slaughtering George Floyd, a black civilian, during an arrest last year May. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Floyd was handcuffed and faced down on the road . He was repeatedly saying that he couldn’t breathe, while other officers looked on and ignored his plight.
A video of Floyd’s excruciating death soon went viral all over the world, provoking last summer’s unprecedented wave of mass protests against police violence and racial discrimination. It is expected that Chauvin’s murder trial will continue for at least four weeks.
We are listing five instances that will give expert analysis on the Chauvin’s criminal record, police violence and racial discrimination in the U.S. law enforcement.
1. Police misconduct and violence tops the list of most number of Black men death
An up-to-date archive of police killings records reveals that since 2000, U.S. police have killed at-least 1000-1,200 people per year in fatal encounters. According to an observation made by Frank Edwards of the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice the victims of police violence has mostly been the Black young males.
The study by Edwards and his two co-authors analyzed the Fatal Encounters data to assess how risk of death by police men differs by race or ethnicity, sex and age. The study revealed that while “police are responsible for a very small share of all deaths” in any given year, they “are responsible for a substantial proportion of all deaths of young people.”
Police violence comes at the sixth- stop after accidents, suicides, homicides, heart disease and cancer when it comes to death of young men in the United States in 2019. The risk become even higher for young black men and LGBT community.
Edward also observed that “About 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys are killed by police” during their lifetime. On the other hand, general U.S. male population is killed at a rate of 0.52 per 1,000- half as often as black men.
2. Chauvin has a criminal track record
It has been observed that police officers who kill civilians have track records of misconduct or violence same as Chauvin. In an article on police violence written after George Floyd’s killing, it was found that Derek Chauvin was “the subject of at least 18 separate misconduct complaints and was involved in two additional shooting incidents.” In 2006 at a roadside stop, Chauvin was one of the six officers who fired 43 rounds into a truck driven by a man wanted for questioning in a domestic violence. The man, Wayne Reyes, who police said aimed a sawed-off shotgun at them, died. A Minnesota grand jury did not indict any of the officers. There also number of cases that has not been reported.
3. Racism and Violence by police in the U.S are hurting Black families.
These incidents are becoming so frequent that it has started taking an emotional toll on Black communities. It is so bad that firing of police officers like Chauvin who use unreasonable force on the civilians are not helping with the recurring pattern of such incidents.
A 2020 Gallup survey revealed that one in four Black men aged between 18 to 34 reported they had been treated unfairly by police within the last month. An analysis of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study by inequality and racism researchers Deadric T.Williams and Armon Perry which surveyed nearly 5,000 families from U.S. cities, revealed that negative police interactions have “far-reaching implications for Black families.”
“Fathers who reported experiencing a police stop were more likely to report conflict or lack of cooperation in their relationships with their children’s mother,” they wrote. Black mothers also report “feelings of uncertainty and agitation” after Black fathers are stopped by police, Williams and Perry found. That can “affect the way that she views the relationship, leading to anger and frustration.”
4. Europe is handling racism and police violence better than the United States.
A study by Rutgers researcher Paul Hirschfield in 2014 on policing in the U.S. and In Europe found that , “American police were 18 times more lethal than Danish police and 100 times more lethal than Finnish police”.
In most U.S. states, it is “easy for adults to purchase handguns,” Hirschfield observed, so “American police are primed to expect guns.” That may make them “more prone to misidentifying cellphones and screwdrivers as weapons.”
U.S. law is comparatively lenient of such mistakes. If it can be proved by the police officers that they had a “reasonable belief” that there was a threat of life, they may be acquitted for killing unarmed civilians. On the other hand, most European countries permit deadly force only when it is “absolutely necessary” for the enforcement of law.
“The unfounded fear of Darren Wilson – the former Ferguson cop who fatally shot Michael Brown – that Brown was armed would not have likely absolved him in Europe,” writes Hirschfield.
5. Racism is in the roots of American policing !
Well before modern gun laws, racism ran deep in American policing, as criminal justice researcher Stephan A. Schwartz wrote in June 2020.
The first organized law enforcement agency in the South was white slave patrols. “The first slave patrols arose in South Carolina in the early 1700s,” Hassett-Walker wrote. By the dawn of century, every slave state had slave patrols. They could legally enter anyone’s premises based on suspicions that they were giving shelter to people who had escaped bondage.
Northern police forces did not originate in racial terror, but Hassett-Walker writes that they nonetheless imposed it.
From Boston to New York city, early municipal police “were overwhelmingly white, male and more focused on responding to disorder than crime,” comments Hassett-Walker. “Officers were expected to control ‘dangerous classes’ that included African Americans, immigrants and the poor.”
This history continues today in the negative stereotypes of Black men as dangerous and threat to other civilians. It increases the risk for people like George Floyd who are more prone to be treated aggressively by police, with potentially lethal results.