What Chauvin’s guilty verdict means for law enforcement
The jury’s decision to find Chauvin guilty may strengthen the calls for police reform that have been widespread since Floyd's death
On Tuesday afternoon a Minnesota jury found ex-police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ideally, the citizens of Minneapolis and the country at large accept the jury’s decision and peacefully show their support for or against the verdict.
Realistically, the events of last summer make it likely that people will be in the streets tonight and in the days ahead to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, some protesters, determined to capitalize on a fraught situation, will resort to property damage and violence and the cycle of unrest that began last summer may continue.
Floyd’s death set in motion, not only protests, but massive scrutiny from the public on law enforcement use-of-force tactics, historic engagement with minority citizens, and ignited a conversation on what the public wants from and expects from law enforcement.
Simultaneously, many chiefs and police officers looked inward and began to engage in conversations to better understand evolving public expectations, initiate new programs to build relationships, and ensure officers have the tools and training to match the laws and policies that direct their work.
Specifically, the jury’s decision to find Chauvin guilty may strengthen the calls for police reform and improvement that have been widespread since Floyd's death. Those specific areas of reform include:
Officers must have the training, through lectures and hands-on experiences, to gain control of a suspect with a continuum of use of force tactics and be able to recognize when a suspect or arrestee is experiencing a medical emergency.
Duty to intercede
That training, supported by policy, must make it acceptable for any officer, regardless of their rank or years of service, to intervene when another officer has lost control of a suspect or is applying more force than is necessary. Intra-department culture – the blue wall of silence – that keeps officers silent, puts officers' lives and careers at risk, as well as endangers the public.
It is not enough to know that an officer has had training. Training documentation must include what the training covered; the standards, policies or accreditation requirements that were met; and if the officer’s competence or ability to use the training was assessed.
Departments must ensure internal training staff have the knowledge, skills and confidence to train officers in the complex topics the profession demands. Departments that look to external organizations must more carefully vet the experiences and abilities of contractors brought in to teach courses.
Recognition of a medical emergency
Not rapidly recognizing a medical emergency and calling for EMS is a significant risk for police officers. Officers need more training on distinguishing “emergency” vs. “not emergency” and when to activate an EMS response. In addition, police departments and their EMS partners need to accept that over-triage, being called too often, is better than under-triage.
If EMS has been activated but the response is delayed, officers need to have the basic knowledge to reduce the risk of further harm, take action to protect a suspect’s airway, ability to ventilate and stop external bleeding. Moving Floyd to a position for best breathing, such as sitting upright and propped forward, might have made a difference in preventing his respiratory arrest.
Read more: Why all cops need first aid and CPR training
Officers continue to serve
Finally, Floyd’s death triggered a summer of violent and destructive protests becoming a national crisis that was debated in the presidential election, as well as races for statehouses and city councils. Chauvin and the other officers unwittingly started a chain reaction that put other officer’s lives at risk, resulted in untold property damage and strained police-community relations in many communities. The harm that Chauvin has done to the noble profession of law enforcement could take years to repair. That’s an enormous burden for other police officers to carry as they seek to serve their community with honor and pride.