With fist raised, Raj Sethuraju, helps carry a mock coffin during a silent march for justice for George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on the day before the beginning of the trial of Derek ChauvinWikimedia Commons

Content Note: This article contains discussion of police brutality and murder

It’s safe to say that America has a problem with police brutality, which disproportionately affects people from ethnic minority groups. Recently, sixteen- year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot four times by a white police officer in an attempt to disable her as she charged at two people with a knife. Thirteen year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a police officer in Chicago at a traffic stop. Just five miles away from the trial of Derek Chauvin, the funeral for Andre Hill, killed by the police officer Adam Coy, was taking place. Sadly, I could go on to list more examples of the horrific murders that the U.S police force have been responsible for within this past year. It is undeniable that there is a police brutality problem, but it is relevant to discuss whether the rightful incarceration of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd signals the solution to this problem.

There are two factors in particular which manifest themselves in the disproportionate killing of black citizens in the U.S. Firstly, there is the imagined and anticipated black or ethnic minority aggression theory, which is the idea that white police officers often exaggerate the threat that their victim poses. Philando Castile was shot seven times in close range while attempting to retrieve his license and registration. It is abundantly clear that his murderer, Jeronimo Yanez, over-anticipated violence from Castile, and then imagined that he was engaging more aggressively than he was because of this racial stereotype.

This is exacerbated by the perception that black bodies have a supernatural capacity for pain. The black body is seen as less vulnerable, and more dangerous than other bodies; these warped perceptions, rooted in slavery, form some of the basis for their overly harsh treatment. Though it was clear to the courts and the doctors present that Chauvin used force beyond reason and asphyxiated George Floyd, during the incident, Chauvin did not and would not believe Floyd when he expressed that he “can’t breathe.” Chauvin not only dismissed him, but he also would not sympathise with a body that he didn’t recognise as being similar to his own. The black body is seen as something supernatural — it can not be hurt, but can only inflict pain. The pairing of these two perceptions of black bodies manifests itself in the numbers of black deaths that are on the hands of U.S. police officers.

“The black body is seen as something supernatural — it can not be hurt, but can only inflict pain”

It is also relevant to assess the economic factors which place black citizens in the firing line of law enforcement. Urban areas are over-policed, black youth are highly visible, and the frequency of the interactions that they have with highly defensive and racially biased police officers put youths in grave danger. This is a fundamental reason for the call that we heard last year to “defund the police.” There are masses and masses of youth from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who fear the very dangerous presence of police officers who patrol their streets and overly anticipate their criminal acts.

The police force in America is arguably over-funded: in 2017 local governments spent $115 billion on the police (4% of state and local direct general expenditures).  In Ferguson, Missouri, after Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, the decision was made to commence federal programs 1033 and 1122, which aided police departments to acquire military gear. In situations similar to this, reallocating the thousands of dollars in police funds that go towards the militarisation of the police towards impulse and sensitivity training to prevent such deaths could be more effective and would signal to the protestors that their criticisms are being used to evaluate police strategies.


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Currently, the US has a 13-19 week training policy which can last up to 6 months. The training process is rushed, and it doesn’t afford the room for trainees to make mistakes in a low stakes environment, receive correction and then translate this into the way in which they handle citizens on the job. This is not the experience for every trained police officer but it appears that even those that have been trained to a high-degree are still disappointing. Take Kim Potter, a 26-year-old veteran, president of the police union, and a training officer who was assigned to train less experienced officers on the same day that she murdered 20-year-old Duante Wright during a traffic stop as the Minneapolis police officer was reaching for a taser and accidentally shot off her gun. This is not an uncommon occurrence as seen in Thomas Lane’s defence to aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd, where he argued that he was instructed to pin down Floyd’s legs by Chauvin, his training officer.

“Does Chauvin’s conviction mean that the justice system has repaired itself and that police brutality in the U.S has been successfully eradicated?”

Does Chauvin’s conviction mean that the justice system has repaired itself and that police brutality in the U.S has been successfully eradicated? 7,666 police officers have murdered someone in the US between 2013-2019: 0.5% were convicted, 1.0% were charged and not convicted, and 98.7% were not charged. Chauvin is an anomaly, singled out by (literally) the world’s largest protest and social media outrage. Unless careful steps are taken to completely restructure the police system, he will remain an anomaly. It is important to ensure that there are harsher consequences for violent police officers, but unless this effort is sustained, Chauvin’s conviction loses meaning.