One of the most-watched American trials in decades ended Tuesday with a jury finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd last year.
The killing of Floyd, a Black man who died after video showed Chauvin kneeling on his neck for nine minutes during his arrest, sparked global protests (including a peaceful vigil in Canby) and a national reckoning on racial justice.
On April 20, a jury consisting of six White people and six people of color found Chauvin guilty on three counts: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
State leaders were quick to weigh in.
“Real justice would be George Floyd being alive today,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden tweeted. “Today’s verdict is only one step in the march to justice. That destination will be reached only when accountability like today’s verdict becomes the rule of law.”
“George Floyd’s life mattered,” Governor Kate Brown agreed in an April 20 statement. “His death, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, shook our nation to its core. My thoughts are with his family today.”
Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith began the April 21 meeting of the Board of Commissioners by reading a brief prepared statement, saying the verdict “has impacted America.”
“It just shows that our justice system is provided accountability when it’s needed,” Smith said. “And we here at Clackamas County will continue our good work along those lines for justice, public safety and the preservation of freedom.”
“Officer Chauvin had his trial and was found guilty by a jury,” Mayor Brian Hodson said in a statement to The Canby Current. “I hope George Floyd’s family can find some level of peace from the result and once sentencing takes place.”
City Councilor Greg Parker was characteristically reflective rather than prescriptive.
“We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are,” Parker said. “As a White man, I have never known the fear that I may die when I see a police cruiser in the rearview mirror. I think this is a time for those born with privilege to listen with granularity to the voices of color.”
“There can be no true justice when a human life is lost,” Councilor Sarah Spoon said. “George Floyd was a father, son, brother and friend to his loved ones.”
Chauvin being found guilty by a jury of his peers was a “small step toward accountability in policing,” Spoon said.
“Law enforcement officers are not gods among men and should not have impunity,” she said. “Police can only have the trust of the community they signed up to serve and protect if there are consequences for misconduct and murder.”
Local law enforcement also shared their thoughts on the rare murder conviction of a police officer in an on-duty incident.
Canby Police Chief Jorge Tro and the other police chiefs in Clackamas County released a joint statement saying the verdict “reflects a justice system which held a law enforcement officer accountable for their actions.”
“No one should be above the law,” the statement said. “The many good men and women who wear their badges with honor, integrity, and compassion stand with our communities, with an ache in our hearts and a deep understanding that words are not enough.
“The Police Chiefs of Clackamas County are committed to strengthening relationships with the communities we serve through listening, training, transparency and accountability.”
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the Polk County sheriff and a half-dozen local police departments, released an April 20 statement that actually preceded Tuesday’s verdict.
“Together, as a community, we wait for the outcome of the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin who is being prosecuted for his role in Floyd’s death,” the statement said. “Regardless of the verdict, we encourage our community to respond with peace and civility.
“We see this moment in time as a unique opportunity to come together with our communities to seek better understanding and have meaningful and productive conversations around police reform. As law enforcement professionals, we stand with you in opposition to racism and hate.”
Canby City Councilor Chris Bangs said he believes the U.S. criminal justice has systemic problems, including police killing unarmed Black people, and Blacks being subject to longer and harsher penalties than Whites who commit the same crimes.
“We have further extended this systemic problem into education and economic opportunities,” Bangs said. “All these things need to be addressed as part of our ongoing process in order to form a more perfect union.”
But, he added, “it is important to note that the things that have been happening in Minneapolis and other places across the country have not been happening here in Canby.”
“Not once in the 21 years I’ve been part of this community have our police shot anyone, for any reason, and I have a tremendous confidence in our officers upholding the law for all our citizens,” said Bangs, who is also a teacher at Canby High School.
“In fact, I have nothing but respect for how our police have treated the young people I see in my classrooms, our Black citizens, and other people of color here in Canby.”
Citing one example from last summer, Bangs described how a Black friend of his, a single mother of two young children, was stopped by Canby Police Officer Allen Miller.
It was past 8 p.m. and she was heading home to make dinner, he recounted, but she was not carrying proper documentation.
“His response was to remind her to get those things together, and also to give her a $100 gift card at Safeway for groceries and then to purchase out of his own wallet McDonald’s for the three of them,” Bangs said of Officer Miller.
“This is the sort of response we have grown to expect and love of our local police in Canby, and as a citizen and city councilor, it is hard to express just how proud I am of them.”
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