Today, Derek Chauvin was found guilty. This does not negate the fact that George Floyd should still be alive. His killing is part of a disturbing pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color. Chauvin’s conviction sends the message that police violence must end, however, it doesn’t erase the systems across the country that uphold race-based policing and oppress Black people.
While today’s verdict brings rare accountability for police, it is only the first step in addressing police abuse of power, disparate treatment, and excessive force against Black and Brown communities. We must root out the racism on which our law enforcement system is built.
Time and again, Virginia lawmakers have shirked their responsibility to hold police accountable. This past legislative session, they killed bills to bypass qualified immunity – a federal legal shield that allows officers to avoid being sued for misconduct. The proposed bills would have stopped qualified immunity from being used as a defense in state courts so that people harmed by police could sue in Virginia courts, with Virginia judges and juries. Sadly, it’s not the first time this important legislation has been killed by lawmakers.
Holding police accountable after the harm has been done is not enough. We must rethink the role of police in our society and shrink the scope of their work. All lawmakers, especially those on the local level, should recognize that this is not the time to expand police budgets. This is the time to put more money into community services to house the homeless and give people better access to mental health services, drug treatment programs and community-led first responders. Legislators need to focus on transformational changes and address the source of deadly interactions. Police should be removed from enforcing low-level offenses and traffic violations. Too many Black and Brown Virginians have been harmed and killed by police during interactions that stemmed from minor offenses.
We will continue to fight for racial justice, constitutional policing, and an end to police violence. The ACLU of Virginia joins Mr. Floyd’s family and the community in mourning his death. Together, we’ll work to ensure that one day, we can remember George Floyd and the many others who have lost their lives to police violence in bittersweet celebration of the true justice for all achieved in their names.