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South Florida Community Leaders Respond To Chauvin Guilty Verdict For George Floyd's Murder


This post has been updated.

Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd is something of an anomaly in America.

In the past 15 years, only five non-federal law enforcement officials have been convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting that wasn’t later overturned, according to the Police Crime Database at Bowling Green State University.

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As the nation reacted to Tuesday’s guilty conviction of the former Minneapolis police officer, Sundial held discussions on the local impact of the verdict.

Tequila Waters lost her son after an altercation with police

Water’s son, Damain Martin, was 16 years old when he died after being chased into a canal by Sunrise police. An officer then deployed his taser nearby and Damain drowned. The City of Sunrise Police Department ruled his death as an accidental drowning.

Attorneys Ben Crump and Sue-ann Robinson are representing the family, and have filed an intent to sue the Sunrise Police Department.

What's the significance of this verdict for you?

WATERS: It gives me a little bit of hope, but not peace yet. What gives me peace is when I have my verdict, when I have the people accountable for my son's death when they are held accountable. I can have my peace then. But until then, I have to keep fighting and fight for the ones who can’t fight for themselves.

How about the ones who don't have the camera? George [Floyd] had somebody filming him. My son had no camera filming him. So he didn’t have the eyes on him.

Last time we had you on the show, you talked about the conversations that you had with Damain about the police before he died and that conversations you still have with your other children. Does this verdict have an impact on that conversation?

WATERS: No, not really. My kids are terrified of the police, it’s so sad. This [conversation] is to keep them safe and to let them know what's going on. Let them know what's going on about Big Brother, but they don't really understand as much and why. They go to therapy and everything, but they know something is not right with the police.

Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez

Police departments around the country are grappling with their use-of-force protocols in the wake of Floyd’s death. Back in June 2020, Ramirez announced his department would no longer use chokehold restraints on suspects.

An NPR review of bans on neck restraints have fallen short. After these bans, a variation of the neck restraint was often permitted. These policies have also been subject to lax enforcement.

How do the use of chokeholds differ from permanent restraint, which is the tactic that Officer Chauvin used in the death of George Floyd?

RAMIREZ: The act of the chokehold is a different tactic than what you saw with [Chauvin] who had been circulating the neck and applying pressure on the carotid arteries that would temporarily incapacitate the individual that we're dealing with trying to take into custody. … We realized that of 700,000 calls for service, [the chokehold] was used like 0.0004% of the time. I ensured that we had other tactics that would keep my officers safe. Once I saw that we had a good product, I immediately canceled that [chokehold] policy.

What message did Chauvin's guilty verdict on Tuesday deliver to police officers?

RAMIREZ: I think it's not only the force, it's the entire country that is not going to put up with abuses or injustices. Fortunately for our department, that we're extremely progressive, we have a very proactive training and wellness component to ensure that we bring the best service to our community and provide the best environment for officers to serve our community in a positive light. If you look from last year to now, we've been very fortunate here in Miami-Dade County. We haven't experienced the issues that you see around the country because of those relationships that we built for a long time now with the community and always being on the cutting edge of modern policing.

Community Activist Tifanny Burks

Burks is a lead organizer for the Black Lives Matter Alliance in Broward County. She has been working with the Black Lives Matter movement since 2013. She was most recently involved in the protests against police brutality that happened in South Florida over the summer.

While many say justice has finally been served, others look at this just as an act of accountability. Words are important. What are your thoughts on how people are labeling this?

BURKS: This is not justice because in a world with justice, George Floyd would still be alive. And a world with justice Damain Martin would still be here. This is Derek facing the consequences of his actions.

The police officers did not do what they were supposed to do. We see it happen time and time again. The people that claim that they're supposed to keep us safe are not doing that. And so in a world with true justice, it really looks like let's actually fund and resource the things that keep us safe.

You talk about defunding and abolishing the police. I want you to clarify what that means. What would that look like?

BURKS: Most times, people need support. And so we want more resources to be reallocated to mental health professionals. We want more resources to be allocated for people to have a livable wage, affordable housing, things that actually make people feel safe. Those things that people are doing, like robbing, stealing or this $20 counterfeit bill that people are debating over in the situation with George Floyd, a lot of these things will be eliminated. The need for policing and policing as we know it is going to be obsolete. It's obsolete now. In the situation with Daunte Wright, he needed somebody who was a traffic enforcer not a police officer who shot first and asked questions later. Ma’Khia Bryant needed a mental health professional to actually help support her. So we're looking for more interventions that actually help keep people safe and have resources be reallocated to that and defund police departments.

Police Oversight Executive Rodney Jacobs

Jacobs is with the City of Miami’s Investigative Panel. The group is responsible for investigating cases of police misconduct brought forth by the public. In Miami-Dade, a verdict like what Chauvin received is rare. The last time a police officer was convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting was in 1989.

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted to move forward on a countywide civilian investigative panel in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Do we know where things stand with the Miami-Dade CIP?

JACOBS: Members of the Board of County Commission are looking to appoint members to the nominating committee. We believe by doing this it will help streamline the process and really get things moving forward. I'm hopeful for the next couple of months that the nominating committee will get going to the good work the people demand.

You want to see a different form of criminal justice reform as a result of this verdict. You want policing to be seen as a public health issue. Help me understand.

JACOBS: For me, I think these things are quality of life issues. … When we talk about stress in communities, when we talk about people having a better education. If we start to infuse public health into our policing or into our safety, we really would have a proactive approach so that situations like George [Floyd]’s don't happen in the future. I'm happy about the verdict, obviously, but nothing is going to bring George [Floyd] back. Nothing is going to make that family whole again.

This post was updated to correct the spelling of Damain Martin's name.

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Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.