Police Reform Groups Don’t Just Want Guilty Verdict

Mike Moen | Public News Service
Groups holding demonstrations outside the Derek Chauvin trial say they don't just want a conviction over the killing of George Floyd. They say city and state leaders have yet to adopt meaningful police reforms. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

MINNEAPOLIS — The first witnesses have testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd.

Police accountability groups said despite the attention the case has received, they’re not satisfied with policy action so far. Floyd’s killing sparked massive protests around the world over police mistreatment of Black individuals.

In Minneapolis and at the state Capitol, reform efforts have been adopted and floated over the past year.

Jae Yates, organizer of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, said they’ll keep holding demonstrations and pursuing other avenues in hopes of getting a Minneapolis police department overseen by a citizen council.

“There’s not going to be any placating us with half-measures or with meaningless promises of name changes or other useless reforms,” Yates vowed.

At the state level, activists want the Legislature to go further than it did last year when it approved a police reform bill. While the measure had bipartisan support, some said it lacked real substance.

The calls come amid counter-arguments from some police advocates who claim the reform groups don’t want any kind of authority, a claim activists say isn’t true.

Michelle Gross, president and co-founder of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said her group thinks law enforcement is still needed for victims of certain crimes.

But she argued it’s time to get serious about redirecting a good portion of police funding and using it for social services.

“Any kind of thing that doesn’t require police response, you know, wellness checks,” Gross suggested. “There’s all kinds of things police don’t need to be doing; dealing with homelessness.”

She added a recent incident involving a Minneapolis police officer, under investigation after being caught on video punching a Black teenager, shows not much has changed since Floyd’s death.

Gross acknowledged some reforms adopted by the state last year are a step in the right direction, including a ban on so-called warrior training, but she feels there are still not enough changes to prevent another incident like Floyd’s killing.

The groups are part of a broader coalition calling on Minnesota lawmakers to adopt nine legislative proposals, including ending qualified immunity for officers and more civilian oversight.