Washington, DC (May 25, 2022) – Two years ago, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, shocking the nation and setting off a renewed wave of calls for reform of police use of force against people of color. Since that tragic death, states have enacted an array of policing reforms, including limiting police interventions in mental health crises, reducing low-level traffic stops, reforming use-of-force policies, and implementing other accountability measures.
Then the pendulum swung back – hard.
Critics of these reforms have claimed that these measures caused an increase in crime rates – a claim not supported by data comparing jurisdictions with and without reforms. Nevertheless, this claim has had an impact on public opinion and legislative priorities. Hard-won gains have been rolled back or eliminated. But on this tragic anniversary, NACDL calls for reflection on the killing that catalyzed reform and the damage done to communities affected by racist and biased policing. Despite the allure of tough-on-crime rhetoric, harsh policing practices do not increase public safety or reduce crime rates and we would be tragically mistaken if we were to return to the practices of the past because we fear change.
"Fearing change is a luxury not afforded to communities routinely subjected to overpolicing, police abuse, and other flaws of our criminal legal system," said NACDL President Martín Sabelli. "George Floyd’s horrific killing stands in profound contrast to the nonviolent arrest of Payton Gendron by the Buffalo Police Department and should inspire every reasonable, compassionate person to press for real change in policing of people of color."
"The murder of George Floyd, while lying prone in the street with an officer’s knee to his neck, galvanized a movement to address systemic law enforcement abuses that blatantly target people of color and those without means," said NACDL President Elect Nellie King. "The destructive notion that law enforcement should enjoy unfettered powers must be condemned and replaced with new standards which elevate human dignity over racism, degradation, and lawlessness at the hands of the law. NACDL’s Full Disclosure Project, an initiative to track and make public police misconduct records, was created to counter these abuses. Through this project and continued advocacy for change, NACDL joins a coalition of partners in addressing much needed reform in the areas of police misconduct, lack of departmental standards, flawed internal investigative processes, subjective and conflict-filled oversight mechanisms, lack of transparency and accountability among the ranks, and the frequent killings of unarmed people of color by law enforcement."
"In 2020, people around the world watched in horror as Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd," said NACDL Executive Director Lisa Wayne. "The video of this murder was the ultimate display of police power against a citizen. It remains an image repeated time and time again, one that Black Americans will never be able to erase from their psyches. On this day, we must remember when not only Americans took to the streets, but people around the world united in demanding change. NACDL will not forget and remains steadfast in its mission to eradicate systemic racism in the criminal legal system."