After the death of George Floyd last May, 2020 marked a historical movement in the fight for police accountability and equal justice under the law. Despite facing a global pandemic, millions of Americans left their homes and took to the streets to have their voices be heard. People were tired of being oppressed and the momentum toward radical change became inspiring.
All that momentum came to a head on Tuesday as officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three charges against him in the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin is now in jail awaiting sentencing, which will be in 8 weeks.
Chauvin’s guilty verdict was a major victory for police accountability activists and people were literally crying with joy in the streets of Minneapolis. While this verdict is certainly welcome, it proves we have an extremely long way to go and this was just one battle in a war Americans have been losing for decades.
Since 2005, American cops have killed over 15,000 citizens while on duty. According to the data, since then, just 139 police officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter in relation to an on-duty killing.
As VOX reports, Of those 139 officers, just 45 were convicted (with 41 cases still pending). Many of those convictions came on lesser charges: With the conviction of Chauvin, just 8 officers have been convicted of murder in police shootings since 2005, with their prison sentences ranging from 81 months to life. The remaining 37 were convicted on charges ranging from manslaughter to official misconduct, in some cases serving no prison time.
The cops who killed Elijah McClain, Andrew Finch, Kameron Prescott, Daniel Shaver, Charles Roundtree Jr., Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, John Albers, Casey Goodson Jr., Ryan Whitaker, Philando Castile and countless other completely innocent individuals — all got away with it. This is not okay.
What’s more, as TFTP reported this week, the majority of police killings involve calls in which there was no crime or that the suspect is only suspected of a non-violent offense.
“Most killings began with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported,” according to a report from PoliceViolenceReport.org
It gets worse.
Of the 1,127 people killed by police in 2020, only 277 of them were suspected of a violent offense. The majority, 658 were suspected of a non-violent offense or no crime at all, while another 121 were killed over a traffic violation.
Though we have been losing the police accountability war for decades, there is a paradigm shift taking place and the landscape is changing, rapidly.
As TFTP reported last month, in an unprecedented move, the New York City Council passed sweeping legislation to go after bad cops by removing qualified immunity, ushering in a new era for police accountability. Then, last week, New Mexico followed suit and also did away with qualified immunity for cops.
It is the beginning of the end of no accountability for bad cops and Chauvin’s guilty verdict could lead to a landslide of change.
On top of states eliminating qualified immunity, other municipalities have began to remove the tool which police have used for decades to oppress America — the war on drugs.
In November, Oregon decriminalized all drugs allowing cops to focus on actual crime instead of kidnapping, caging, and killing people over arbitrary substances. But that was just the beginning. Other areas have followed suit.
In Maryland, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently announced the war on drugs is over in Baltimore and she is making it permanent policy to dismiss all criminal charges for the possession of drugs including heroin.
Mosby didn’t stop at drug possession either, she is also dismissing all cases for other victimless crimes like attempted drug distribution, prostitution, open containers and minor traffic offenses.
Mosby began her crusade last year when her office simply refused to keep prosecuting crimes which had no victim. Much to the dismay of the pro-police state crowd, refusing to prosecute people for victimless crimes did not lead to an uptick in criminal activity. In fact, since her policy was implemented a year ago and 1,400 victimless crimes were not prosecuted, crime went down, a lot.
Compared to this same time last year, violent crime in the city has dropped 20% while property crime fell a massive 35% compared to the same period.
“Clearly, the data suggests that there is no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses,” Mosby said.
Since taking office, Mosby’s policy has led to an 80% reduction in drug arrests despite possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs remaining illegal in the state of Maryland.
What’s more, 911 calls for drug use, prostitution and public intoxication fell by 33% compared to the same period before this policy was enacted.
Since there have only been 8 cops convicted of murder out of 15,000 killings in the last 15 years, clearly the threat of charges is not a deterrent to stop future killings. So we must think outside the box like Mosby if we want to change the paradigm.
Ending the drug war, ending predatory policing and revenue collection, and ending the persecution of victimless crimes all attack the tools which cops use to kill people with impunity. If we can eliminate the situations in which police feel the need to kill, less people will be killed. Plain and simple.
What’s more, a massive side effect of such measures is more freedom.
It’s great that Derek Chauvin was found guilty but it would have been magnitudes better if George Floyd were still alive. Let’s stop making more George Floyds. It’s possible and it’s easy and it is the only option outside of complete tyranny.