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THE GOOD NEWS AND CHALLENGE OF THE CHAUVIN CASE


April 2021

By Charles Lickson


By now, almost everyone in the world (at least where TV, radio or electronic means reaches) knows about the result of the Minnesota, USA trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin on criminal charges. The finding of guilt of multiple charges against Chauvin including murder has had resounding results both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

In many ways, the case is good news in holding police to certain minimal standards of behavior when confronting human life. The very casual, almost indifference shown by Chauvin in the life of George Floyd was a sure component of the finding of the racially mixed jury. It may seem that the value of a human life, sometimes seeming to be lost to responding police officers, was a factor in this case. Also, brother and sister Minneapolis police officers testifying against him may seem to have been one of the new elements of the case. It is hard to believe that anyone in America (if not the world) could forget Floyd’s plea: “I can’t breathe” as Chauvin and other police officers held him on the street – face down – for over 9 minutes.

Such a scene of police brutality seemed new to many of us, The graphical capture of the scene by body cameras and passersby video brought the matter to the attention of the news, the media, police agencies and the public in a way unique to the case; however. it is not totally unique to law enforcement in the U.S. and in many other areas of the world. The fact that Mr. Floyd was black and Officer Chauvin is white certainly played a role in the outcome of this case.

It seems that after the recent Chauvin guilty verdict, there might be a new day in U.S. law enforcement. Let us hope that it will do so, but with that also comes the challenge of how to handle “hot” situations by police officers. Training seemed to be an issue in the Chauvin case (in that the Minneapolis P.D. training was not followed).

Maybe police here in the U.S. and elsewhere will be held to a higher standard when it comes to life threatening activity. But the Chauvin case may also put out the perception that law enforcement men and women are potentially at risk to civil, even criminal liability if they feel they must take immediate action.

The challenge will be to be able to bring qualified, fully vetted new people into the law enforcement field with compassion for life, maybe new training – and, maybe new risk. Many police departments in the U.S. are currently short of officers. For all the great good flowing from the Chauvin case, there is also the challenge of recruiting good people to the profession and making sure departments and agencies do all they can to properly train them. To all other requirements of potential new officers, maybe compassion and a willingness to avoid using deadly force when required is also called for. Let us hope these special people can be found. You may never really know until something happens. *** Charles P. Lickson, President of LALO, is not only a former practicing attorney, he spent 10 years as a fully sworn, armed law enforcement officer in Connecticut. He now resides in Virginia

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