Both local activists and some in law enforcement are praising Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.
Retired Metro Police officer Reggie Miller said he was overcome with relief when he heard the news.
“This provided hope, not only for Black America but for everybody who sat and watched what happened,” he said. “That was not a representation of what police officers stand for.”
Miller has spent years fighting racial discrimination within MNPD, both as an officer and as president of Nashville’s chapter of the National Black Police Association.
He’s also been a victim of police brutality. In 1992, fellow white officers beat Miller up while he was working undercover.
Miller hopes this verdict will send a message to police officers that they will face consequences if they use excessive force.
“This also shows bad police officers — not just police officers but bad police officers — that if you think that you can get away with doing what that officer done, then you should expect the same results,” he said.
Chief John Drake said in a statement that it was “abundantly clear” that the police officer who killed George Floyd had committed “an atrocious crime.” But he expressed hope that there will be more than just accountability in this individual case.
“I hope that it also creates momentum for communities and law enforcement to work together in new ways and strengthen relationships and partnerships for the sake of us all,” Drake said.
Some local leaders emphasized the need for future steps to prevent excessive force and discrimination, while also celebrating the jury’s decision.
“If we are ever to end this violence, we must also re-examine approaches to public safety,” Hedy Weinberg, state director for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a statement. ” We must transform policing in Tennessee — ensuring alternatives to armed police officers responding to every situation, increasing accountability, and creating policies that combat racism in policing.”
Many activists and police reform advocates chimed in on social media with similar messages.
“Our community deserves more than a conviction,” Community Oversight Board Vice Chair Jamel Campbell-Gooch wrote on Twitter. “We still got work to do.”
We still got work to do.
— Jamel Campbell-Gooch (@nashvillered) April 20, 2021
State Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, urged the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct, while local attorney Robin Kimbrough Hayes urged her followers to “Stay woke!” and reminded them that judicial elections are coming up in 2022.
Stand Up Nashville Director Odessa Kelly, who recently announced her campaign for Nashville’s 5th congressional seat, wrote on Twitter that the “verdict was the result of a murder, caught on camera, and the outcry of the entire world,” not “because our justice system finally agrees that police must value Black lives.” She said America still has a long way to go.
We still have a long way to go to achieve an America where the police treat us with dignity and respect, and are always held accountable when they don’t. Today is just a reminder of how far we still have to go. #breonna #daunte #rayshard #stephon #therest 2/2
— Odessa Kelly (@OdessaKellyTN) April 20, 2021
Former public defender Keeda Haynes echoed that sentiment. Since serving several years in a federal prison for a drug charge that she’s maintained she wasn’t guilty of, Haynes has become an outspoken critic of racial disparities within the criminal justice system. After the verdict, she tweeted, “The work continues!”
Guilty on all counts. But this is only about accountability and not justice! Justice can’t come from a system rooted in white supremacy & perpetuates violence against Black people every day! Tomorrow the cj system & police culture will still be the same! The work continues!
— Keeda Haynes (@KeedaHaynes) April 20, 2021
Conversations about systemic racism and police brutality are likely to reemerge in the coming months in Nashville. The city is preparing for its first murder trial for an on-duty killing by a police officer this summer.
After multiple delays, Metro Police Officer Andrew Delke will stand trial for murder in July for shooting Daniel Hambrick in the back while he ran away with a gun in his hand.
Delke’s attorney has tried to get the trial moved out of Nashville multiple times, because he thinks the local jury pool is biased against his client. He’s referred to the first large protest after Floyd’s death, when a few demonstrators set a fire inside the Metro Courthouse.
But a judge has repeatedly denied his request. Jury selection starts July 6.
Miller says there are some similarities between the cases against Delke and Chauvin.
“The connecting dots always seem to be white police officer, Black suspect,” he says. “The police are getting the same training from the department. So, the thing is, why is it? Why is it that this is happening to white police officers and Black suspects?”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.