Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is headed to prison, but local community leaders say change is only just starting.
Chauvin was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of George Floyd.
“I was relieved,” Loes Hedge, secretary for the St. Joseph chapter of the NAACP, said. “You know, the witnesses, I was impressed with them. “And the police officers and people who worked with him who thought that he was out of line.”
Hedge hopes institutional change is coming to policing. While Chauvin’s trial took place hundreds of miles away from St. Joseph, it captivated the nation.
“I heard the word inflection used a lot,” Hedge said. “But we hope this isn’t just a one-shot where this happens and then the situation with policing continues to happen in this negative way.”
Hedge believes there’s a push to charge officers with crimes when they face misconduct instead of just internally disciplining them. St. Joseph Police Sgt. James Langston was charged with assault this week after slapping a victim who was in handcuffs.
“I’m sorry it had to be a killing, but it brought about a lot of change, especially among white Americans,” Hedge said. “Many of them said, ‘I didn’t realize this was going on’ and these are people who are 50 years old. At least they’re open to it now and hopefully (the trial) helps everybody.”
The Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph released a statement following the verdict, which could see Chauvin imprisoned 40 years or more if the judge finds aggravating circumstances.
“Today’s verdict cannot undo the pain or the grief, it cannot bring George Floyd back to his family,” CAP officials said in a statement. “Today’s verdict is a small step and small steps lead to change ... small steps lead to justice.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, told News-Press NOW that he believes the jury in Chauvin’s case reached the “right” verdict.
“My view is that, as a former prosecutor, I trust juries,” Hawley said. “This jury heard lots and lots of testimony over many days, they deliberated for quite a number of hours, and I trust that they reached the right result.”
Hedge said she believes the Floyd family received both justice and accountability.
“If you commit a crime, and that is what the jury said that he did, that you need to pay for that with punishment, which is going to prison,” she said. “As for accountability, he was made to be judged. He was judged to be guilty.”