Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges around 2 p.m. PST at the Hennepin County court for the murder of George Floyd. These charges include second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin will be sentenced in approximately 8 weeks.
The University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval sent out an email to students addressing the trial and verdict.
“For our University, now more than ever, the George Floyd verdict means that we remain committed to our educational values of diversity, equity, inclusion, as well as social justice and democracy, in profoundly meaningful and tangible ways,” President Sandoval said. “The painful circumstances that we face require that we come together in support of one another, as a University and as members of the community of northern Nevada.”
Ollie Hernandez, a Justice Management master’s student at the university, said she was at work when she found out about the news of Floyd’s death.
“It made me feel furious and heartbroken that a police officer, an individual who was supposed to abide by the law could take someone else’s life and seem to not care,” Hernandez said.
Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as bystanders tried to stop and filmed the exchange.
His actions leading to Floyd’s death sparked mass protesting last year in over 140 U.S. cities and throughout the world.
Hernandez did not protest, fearing being arrested. This did not stop her from following the situation and observing the three-week trial. She felt infuriated by the defense’s arguments, finding them weak, but experienced pride and sorrow from the testimonies of medical experts and those who witnessed Floyd’s death.
When the verdict was made, Hernandez said she felt shocked and nauseous.
“I thought that Derek Chauvin was going to be found not guilty and there would be no justice,” Hernandez admitted. “Listening to the coverage and hearing the judge read the verdicts felt like the world stop spinning. However, hearing that he was guilty made me cry. It feels like the country might be changing and that police reform will be implemented, especially with today’s political climate.”
Hernandez believes Black Lives Matter helped make this verdict possible with consistent protesting, lobbying and communities that are pushing for change.
“If you work with Black people, have Black students on-campus, or have a community that [is] made up of Black people, you have no choice but to apply the meaning of the movement and voice your concern about the conviction,” Hernandez said.
In the future, Hernandez hopes progressive local, state and federal government institutions will work to make sure that police departments change their policies and procedures when approaching Black communities and communities who are affected by police brutality.
“Overall, if substantial legislation is passed that reforms police brutality, the guidelines will sanction police departments if they don’t abide by policies that require body-cam footage to be analyzed ASAP, police unions to reprimand…terminate, fire,…police officers and change the culture within their departments,” Hernandez said.
As a Black student, Hernandez feels change needs to happen with UNRPD and Reno Police Department.
“I think there is a lot of bias towards Black students and Black people in the Reno area and no one holds UNRPD or Reno PD accountable because they are a partner,” Hernandez said. “Black students should not be afraid or hyperaware of walking home after sunset or be terrified of being stopped by UNRPD or Reno PD because of any implicit bias that exists.”
Dr. Paul Mitchell, a journalism professor at the university, grew up in Philadelphia during the Civil Rights Era where he saw problematic racial situations occur. He said when he was younger, he resonated with Mummand Ali as this generation resonates with Colin Kaepernick.
“Quite honestly, I was not expecting the final outcome. [I was] anticipating a summer of serious civil unrest,” Mitchell said.
He added that he feels Black Lives Matter played a role, but he thinks the pandemic and phones contributed significantly since most of the population nationally and internationally was sequestered.
Mitchell expressed some hope that change will occur as a result. He cited that a 16-year-old Black girl was shot by police in Ohio when the Chauvin verdict was coming out.
“Policing, hopefully, will change,” Mitchell said. “Gonna be interesting to see the trials of Ahmaud Arbery and some others.”
He believes all policing needs to have some changes.
“Policing in this country started with the colonies in New England in the 1600s and extended to the south to stop runaway slaves,” Mitchell said. “Then in the 1800s, policing was used to control immigrants. [There] needs to be research conducted on post-pandemic policing.”
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @taylorkedyll.