The Chauvin Verdict

I wasn’t there when George Floyd died under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin, nor was I in the courtroom seeing and hearing all the evidence. So I cannot pronounce with full certitude on the verdict.

But, like everyone else, I could view video, read testimony, and at least reach an informed opinion. From that perspective, I feel justice was served with Chauvin’s conviction for murder.

As always in cases like this, portrayals of the victim’s character come into play. Family and friends tend to lionize their deceased loved one, completely understandable but often less than fully accurate. George Floyd had numerous run-ins with the law, and apparently had issues that, while perhaps meriting compassion, potentially victimized others.

Focusing extensively on his past record, however, cannot justify what Chauvin did to him. His alleged offense in this instance—passing a bad check—was not a violent crime. Yes, he apparently violently resisted being put in a squad car, claiming claustrophobic trauma. But Chauvin had him subdued and cuffed; he was not at that point a threat to anyone.

We learned, from video and testimony, how Chauvin dismissed the pleas of bystanders—and an off-duty city firefighter/EMT—who warned him that Floyd was in trouble. Apparently, those bystanders had a better handle on the situation than the professional police officer, who somehow couldn’t tell—or just didn’t care—that he was crushing the life out of a helpless human being. And if Floyd’s past background was relevant, what about Chauvin’s long trail of previous misconduct complaints?

A “use of force expert,” a former police officer testifying for the defense, compared Chauvin’s action to a cop tasering someone, who then falls, hits his head, and dies. Well, I’m no “expert,” but there seems to me a major difference between a split-second action that accidently results in a tragedy, and kneeling on a man’s neck for over nine minutes, slowly squeezing the life out of him.

So the verdict seems just to me. But the behavior in the streets, complete with threatened riots if Chauvin was not convicted, was deplorable. Not to be uncharitable, but I’ve always found California Rep. Maxine Waters a source of unintended comic relief, with her constant over-the-top hysterics whenever somebody dares to disagree with her. But the spectacle of a member of Congress in the streets, deliberately undermining our system of due process by demanding a certain verdict while the jury is deliberating, was scandalous.

Several more police killings of African Americans during and after the Chauvin trial were, to some, further proof of “systemic racism” within law enforcement. To others, myself included, they confirmed what even CNN’s Don Lemon observed: that every police shooting is different, and must be judged on its own specific facts.

As African American Congresswoman (and former police chief) Val Demings of Florida affirmed, that was surely the case in Columbus, Ohio, where a police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old girl as she attacked another young African American girl with a knife.

The shooting was, as the Biden White House said, “a tragedy.” Our hearts break for the slain girl, a foster child who doubtless had a troubled life.

But the police officer’s “main thought” was “preventing a tragedy and a loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted,” Demings told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Now everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and freezing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability.”

In Minnesota, not far from where the Chauvin trial was in progress, a black man—allegedly resisting arrest after a traffic stop revealed an open warrant related to an attempted armed robbery charge —was shot to death by a police officer who somehow mistook her gun for a taser. A tragic and fatal mistake no police officer should make.

This was different from the Columbus case; there was no imminent threat to life that prompted this shooting. But it was also different from the killing of George Floyd: it was a momentary, unintentional lapse by the officer, not a sustained brutalizing of a helpless man.

Again, as Don Lemon said, every case is different.    

And let’s not lose sight of the violence being directed against cops, and whether the current anti-cop zealotry—itself a form of bigotry—is contributing to that violence.

We’ve had two such incidents on Long Island recently: one cop nearly died from a brutal stabbing, another was killed, by a hit-and-run driver—an African American woman who, it transpired, had earlier that same day posted a vicious anti-cop rant on social media.

While I fully support and deeply appreciate the work of our police officers, I recognize that there are bad cops, and I favor reasonable reforms in law enforcement.

But consideration of such reforms is virtually impossible in the current climate of anti-police demonization, de-policing policies demanded by radicals and enacted by progressive mayors and governors, and the terrifying nationwide spike in violent crime that has resulted.

Until order is restored, the first priority must be empowering police to better protect public safety—especially in poor and minority communities hardest hit by that crime wave. Thus have anti-cop extremists and progressive politicians undermined the momentum for responsible police reforms that emerged following the murder of George Floyd.  

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

4 thoughts on “The Chauvin Verdict

  1. Rick,

    Thank you for a thoughtful review and representation of the known facts and issues surrounding the subject verdict.

    Like you, I can understand the victims’ families lionizing their loved ones, often despite knowledge of significant failings and shortcomings.

    I take exception to the greater number of individuals presenting such victims as martyrs and erecting monuments like those of the recent varieties being torn down. Yes, Black Lives Matter but, like a media contributor stated,: ALL Lives Matter. The lives of people on both sides of the barricades, the lives of those preventing physical violence from both sides and the lives of those in the stores, offices, buildings and cars damaged or destroyed ALL matter.

    Anger and frustration, lack of action and reaction and the apparently one sided burden of the state of affairs are not license to riot, damage, destroy and loot. As we too often see, such actions affect those lives that matter.

    Like

  2. Hi Rick, thank you for this sane and balanced reflection on the Chauvin verdict and the wider implications of this issue. Back in the olden days when you and I were in school, we were taught to think. I don’t know whether that happens anymore; if it did, it seems to me that we wouldn’t have this rampant reduction of every issue to black-and-white (the terms not meant racially here, of course). Add in the short attention spans, the “ease” of swallowing memes etc. on social media, and you have what passes for “thinking” in this day and age.

    Apropos your comment on Rep. Maxine Waters: What truly frightens me about some of the people haunting the halls of Congress these days is that a sufficient number of people voted for them that they were elected.

    Keep up the good work. God bless you.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Nancy. Yes, the absence of critical thinking seems rampant today, and seems very related to the “cancel culture” that not only refuses to tolerate the expression of any viewpoints different from one’s own, but actually holds up such intolerance as positive “virtue signaling.”

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: