George Floyd tragically lost his life while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. He was originally from Fayetteville and was only 46 years old with one adult child at the time of his death. What led up to his interaction with the police was an attempt to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a local convenience store, which led to Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes. While this may seem like a simple case of accidental death by a suspect resisting arrest, it was in fact just another act of callus police brutality based on race in America.
Last summer, George Floyd’s death sparked country-wide protest against the murder of George Floyd, excessive police violence, and systematic racism against black people as a whole. The community is truly fed up, and the protest transformed from inept anger into action. Not only were those from the African American community vocal, but people from all races and all walks of life also took matters to the highest levels of government to make real change to help prevent more senseless deaths at the hands of police in the black community.
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Changes In The Police Department
Systematic racism is a real problem that will take several generations to correct, and sadly, it may never be cured. Regardless of the difficulty, the protest has led to top officials in many state legislatures pushing for change in the laws surrounding how the police deal with minorities, as well as how misconduct is handled. Thanks to the protest there have been several reforms in many states that led to the creation of independent law enforcement oversight boards.
Several states such as Washington, DC, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and many others have passed general reform laws banning the use of chokeholds. Other police departments have restricted the use of specific chokeholds, such as the carotid control hold, which intentionally cuts off the flow of blood to the brain. Several prominent police chiefs from different cities formed the Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group with the intention of correcting many of the internal problems caused by structural inequities and racially motivated reactions.
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Charges For Police Use Of Excessive Force
The way the law enforcement system is set up in America makes it increasingly difficult to hold officers accountable for their actions. A blue wall protects both good and bad police officers from being prosecuted, which is further supported by the convoluted legal system. The use of body cameras has made fact-checking easier, but it is still a far cry from being a solution. Following the protest, more departments are making the use of body cameras during engagement mandatory to help reduce bad behavior and record interactions on both sides.
In the case of the death of George Floyd, the protest led to an upgrade in the charges lodged against Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved. The jury trial against Derek Chauvin is currently ongoing. Though a small victory in this specific case, police brutality in the black community is still very much active. Breonna Taylor for instance was killed by police in her own home in the middle of the night. Thanks to the public pressure place by constant protest, the FBI launched an investigation. Overall, though senseless killings are still occurring, officers are no longer able to place the blame on the victim and walk away with nothing more than a verbal reprimand.
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Some cities are also updating their use of force rules, many of which have not been changed in the last 20 years. There has been a call to reduce funding to the police departments all over the country, which is seen as a way to help reduce the use of excessive force, however, these measures are still under negotiation. Accountability; however is now very much alive within most police departments. Officers found to be using excessive force are being put on leave, or even fired from the force in addition to being investigated. While not a perfect solution, it is progress from a time when an officer’s word was final and seldom were their words in favor of the victim.
Changes In The Social Sphere
The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for many years, but the protest has bolstered the movement and increased its effectiveness nationwide. Many big chain stores changed their policies that were racially motivated, such as racial profiling and intensive inventory control on African American products in their stores. Racism has also been classed as a public health crisis by many of the most prominent physician groups due to the negative effects it has on both the physical and mental health of the affected parties. Racism is also no longer openly tolerated in most businesses and corporate environments. Though it still exists, callouts and social pressure have proven to have the power to get top executives fired or force them to resign when caught. Hollywood, the entertainment industry as a whole, and even the field of sports have been affected by the protest.
Confederacy & Appropriation Changes Across The Country
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In many states monuments that celebrated Confederate leaders and military personnel has been removed. Schools, streets, and buildings have also been renamed, and many organizations banned the display of the Confederate battle flag. While these do have a place in the history books, it is high time that the ugly past is buried instead of being celebrated. Although the protest was sparked due to police brutality against the Black community, racism and cultural appropriation extend to many other races as well. The conquistadors and Christopher Columbus memorials became a target due to the sufferings enacted on Native Americans. While all of these changes are a step in the right direction, they are still only a small step in what needs to be a much more radical solution.
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