Sharp: The Derek Chauvin trial will decide the fate of police brutality in America


Chad Davis from United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Protests erupted in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin and other police officers were found responsible for George Floyd’s death.

Chloe Sharp, Staff Writer

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Since then, we’ve attended protests, posted black squares on our social media and said his name over and over again, demanding justice for him and other victims of police brutality. 

Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for a total of nearly nine minutes, killing him. Almost a year later, Chauvin’s trial has begun, where he is facing charges of third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter

The question of this trial seems relatively simple: Is Chauvin guilty or innocent? But it’s much deeper than that. The real question that the outcome of this trial will answer is whether or not we will continue to condone systemic racism and police brutality as a country.

The first few days of the trial were distressing for everyone involved. So far, the jury has heard testimony from 11 witnesses of Floyd’s murder. Several witnesses broke down into tears as they recounted what they saw that day and how they attempted to intervene. The jury also saw several videos of Floyd’s death taken that day.

There have been a few defense strategies used so far on Chauvin’s behalf — the most distressing being the claim that Floyd was so large and dangerous that the only way that Chauvin could stop him was by killing him and claiming that Chauvin was only doing what he was trained to do as a police officer.

Before the trial, Chauvin’s lead defense attorney Eric Nelson told a prospective juror that “this case is not about race.” Would he say that the cases of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks or Elijah McClain aren’t about race either? There is an undeniable trend when it comes to police brutality in this country. 

The police force as it exists today is a huge issue in this country. The fact is that black Americans are 3.23 times more likely to be killed than white Americans during a police encounter. That number is no coincidence. Chauvin’s attorney claims that “this case is not about race,”  but I can’t see how it’s not. Systemic racism taints many police departments across the country — not just the force in Minneapolis. George Floyd and so many other black people have been victims of police brutality, and they deserve justice.

Derek Chauvin is guilty of all three charges against him, and the decision made by the jury should reflect that fact. This trial will go down as a formative case in American history. If Chauvin is found guilty, it will show that America is ready to reform the police force and end the systemic racism within it. Police reform is long overdue in this country. It is time that we make America a place where people are no longer in danger of those who are supposed to “protect and serve.”