LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - For some, the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial was a victory. Others say this moment in history comes down to more than just the charges.
Justice, or what many feel is accountability, was handed down Tuesday as a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty for the murder of George Floyd.
Local leaders were willing to weigh in with their thoughts about the case and what it means, especially to communities of color.
Lake Charles NAACP Chapter President Alvin Joseph says, although this verdict gives him some peace, he feels it’s only a catalyst for a lot of work needed to bridge the divide with law enforcement.
”It was kind of like a relief because to tell you the truth, I trust the system, but there’s still some doubt sometimes,” Joseph said. ”I’m thankful that it turned out the way it did, but we still have a long way to go.”
As a former member of law enforcement, Joseph says the verdict is only the beginning of systemic and overall change.
”I was with the sheriff’s office for two years on patrol, and some of the things I’ve seen, like what just happened - knee on the neck - I never did that. It’s uncalled for, unseen, unheard of. We need to get together so we can say, ‘What can we do locally so that won’t happen here?’”
Law enforcement leaders like Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso says building trust is where it starts, something his department seeks transparency in through various programs.
”People want that safety and security in their community. It’s not just about going arresting people. It’s about teaching. Some kids, that’s the only true interaction they’ll ever have with the police, let’s face it,” Mancuso said.
Being that young people are some of the latest victims of police killings, Mancuso says the department’s Junior Deputy Program is a good example of evoking change and education at the local level.
”When we started seeing some of the issues in other communities, we have to learn from that. That’s what we started teaching. This is what you do if you get stopped by police. This is the appropriate way to react, and this is how the policemen should react,” Mancuso said.
Joseph said the local NAACP chapter supports the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280). The bill, passed by the U.S. House and awaiting Senate action, aims to increase accountability for police misconduct. It restricts the use of no-knock warrants, limits “unnecessary” use of force, and lowers criminal intent standards from “willful” to “knowing” or “reckless” in federal prosecutions. The measure also limits officers’ use of qualified immunity as a defense in private civil lawsuits.
The legislation was proposed in June 2020 in the House by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of California.
Both Mancuso and Joseph agree that now is not the time to let this moment be forgotten.
Floyd’s murder in May launched months of protests and was one of several cases that brought attention to police brutality against Black Americans.
The trial lasted for 11 days, and 38 witnesses testified.