Derek Chauvin’s conviction on Tuesday for murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, brought both relief to his family and calls to continue the fight for racial justice in policing and beyond.
“I mean, I’m feeling tears of joy, so emotional that no family in history ever got this far,” Mr Floyd’s brother Rodney said on Tuesday. “I know we’re not done yet,” he added.
As community members and activists told The Independent, this movement began long before George Floyd was murdered, and will continue until the whole system is one built on racial equity. They’ve got their work cut out for them.
According to data, policing in Minneapolis is often done by officers who don’t live in the city, who single out Black people for disproportionate arrests and violence, and who rarely face any form of internal or criminal discipline when they step out of line, and are given massive amounts of resources in a state with deep underlying inequality.
Here’s how unequal policing really is in Minneapolis, by the numbers:
Officers from out of town
Charles McMillian, one of the bystanders who watched Mr Floyd die, said he recognised Mr Chauvin from previous patrols in the neighborhood. But the vast majority of Minneapolis police officers, 92 per cent by some estimates, live outside the city, one of the highest proportions in the country.
Throughout the trial, numerous current and former Minneapolis police officers, as well as outside experts, testified that Mr Chauvin, a 19-year veteran on the force who had received nearly 900 hours of training, wasn’t following department rules during his fatal arrest of Mr Floyd. It’s not part of the official training, of course, but data suggests that it is in fact quite normal for Minneapolis police to use disproportionate force on Black people.
According to a CNN analysis, in the year after George Floyd’s death, Black people were the targets of more than 60 per cent of police use of force in Minneapolis, compared to their roughly 20 per cent share of the population. Another recent study, from The New York Times, found that officers are seven times more likely to use force on a Black person.
Biased stops and arrests
These same imbalances carry over to how the Minneapolis police department, and state of Minnesota at large, have historically chosen whom to arrest and for what. In 2018, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey ordered police to stop low-level marijuana stings because reports showed nearly everyone they arrested for such offences was Black. Still, in 2020, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union found that Black people were more than five times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Minnesota, while another report found that Black Minnesotans in the Minneapolis-St Paul area are incarcerated overall at 11 times the rate of white people. Between June 2019 and May 2020, Black drivers made up nearly 80 per cent of routine traffic stops in Minneapolis.
In addition to these larger-scale inequities, individual officers are rarely punished in the city or state for harming people in their care.
Still, the city of Minneapolis has paid out an average of more than $3 million a year to settle conduct cases against the police over the last decade. And that’s not even counting the recent $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family.
Outside of these settlements, official accountability for officers is rare. In 2012, the city established an Office of Police Conduct Review to evaluate complaints about individual officers. Over the next eight years, more than 2600 complaints yielded just 12 officers being disciplined, with the most severe punishment a one-week suspension.
Though it was largely kept out of the trial, Chauvin himself had a long record of using force, often against people of colour, which continued through the days just before he arrested George Floyd and resulted in 22 complaints or internal investigations over his 19 years on the force, but only one formal instance of discipline. His conviction is believed to be just the second time an on-duty Minnesota police officer has been convicted of murder in the state’s history, and the first time for a white officer.
The Minneapolis police force’s budget is just as extensive as the list of community complaints against the department. Even after Mr Floyd’s murder, and following months of calls to redirect city funds to things like housing and health, Minneapolis only cut a few million from the mayor’s proposed $179 million 2021 police budget. The city spends roughly six times more on police than health, according to its 2021 budget, a ratio unchanged since George Floyd’s death.
An unequal, progressive city and state
Despite its reputation as a progressive haven, Minneapolis and Minnesota are both deeply unequal on nearly every metric. Black people are two times more likely to die of a drug overdose in Minnesota. In 2018, Minneapolis had a nearly $50,000 income gap between white and Black families, the second-highest in the nation and a 2021 report from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank found the state had the fourth worst racial home ownership gap.
What do community members say they want to change?
Many in the Twin Cities and beyond have taken Mr Floyd’s death as evidence that much bigger change is needed than one conviction.
“If we view the whole of justice as wrapped up in this case, I think that that would be a huge miscalculation on our part as a community,” Minneapolis city council member Jeremiah Ellison told The Independent. He’s pushing to entirely disband the Minneapolis police department and replace it with a more holistic public safety agency.
“If we want to honour his legacy and respect what George Floyd was put through at the hands of our current system of public safety, then it’s on us to make systemic changes, or else as we’ve seen in the last few days this is going to keep happening,” he said.