OP-ED: Why Derek Chauvin Got Convicted

Tribune Community, Governance, History, Law, Op-Ed, People, Police Department News 41 Comments

Editor’s Note: Miriam E. Rocah is the elected Westchester County District Attorney and a former federal prosecutor in the State of New York. The views expressed in this commentary are reflective of the author’s perspective.

Mimi Rocah, Westchester County District Attorney 

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — April 28, 2021 —The swift guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin does not bring George Floyd back to life. And the recent police killings of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and Adam Toledo in Illinois, along with so many other tragic and troubling incidents, make clear that American society has a problem that will not be solved by holding just one police officer accountable for murder.

But the outcome of the trial could mark a turning point in the growing nationwide movement to chart a path toward police reform and accountability. Now, to truly end the killing of Black and brown people by police in America and other abuses of power, we need to commit to bold and transformative action. And by “we,” I mean everyone in law enforcement who truly cares about justice.

What led a jury to convict Chauvin of murder when less than 2% of the police killings every year since 2005 have resulted in charges even being filed against the officers? When only seven other fatal police shootings have resulted in murder convictions since 2005, according to a database maintained by Philip Stinson at Bowling Green State University.

I think it largely comes down to three factors: The prosecutors did their job and treated this case and Chauvin’s actions like any other case, without special treatment because he was a police officer; the murder was recorded on video; and an unprecedented number of fellow law enforcement witnesses, including the Minneapolis police chief, testified that Chauvin’s actions were antithetical to police practice and standards.

All of this is rare, but none of it has to be.

Prosecutors must address law enforcement misconduct, corruption and unwarranted use of force in the same way we approach and investigate any other crime. We must focus on the evidence and not make assumptions about the defendant’s intent just because he or she wears a badge.

This approach should not apply only to situations in which someone has been killed at the hands of police. Police departments and prosecutors must be more proactive in vigorously pursuing much lesser forms of misconduct, such as lying on police reports about confidential informants, having the consent to conduct searches, or other matters; excessive use of force in restraining an uncooperative detainee; and off-duty road rage incidents.

Failing to discipline officers for misconduct could potentially instill a sense of impunity.

Chauvin himself faced 18 complaints prior to the killing of George Floyd. The Minneapolis Police Department did not provide additional details about the nature of the complaints but only two were “closed with discipline,” which amounted to a letter of reprimand. Those who are entrusted to enforce the law can’t be allowed to break it, so when this kind of conduct violates criminal statutes, we must prosecute it as we would any other crime.

But prosecutors cannot make these cases alone. Holding bad cops accountable requires cooperation from good police officers and, critically, the police unions, whose obligation to protect their members should not include standing in the way of rooting out corruption and abuse. Addressing all types of police misconduct is simply the only way to restore the public’s faith in our system of policing — something that every dedicated, law-abiding officer and prosecutor should care about.

We also cannot rely on the courage and opportunity of bystanders to film encounters with police. Body cameras for all police must become the norm and the standard. By 2016, nearly half of law enforcement agencies in the US acquired body-worn cameras, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey. That number is likely to be higher today, but they are not uniformly required.

Funding these cameras must be a priority for police departments and the footage must be preserved to ensure the best evidence is available in these cases. Police departments should also require all officers to activate their cameras at the start of their shifts and release relevant footage — especially in fatal police shootings — in a timely manner.

The jury’s decision to convict Chauvin of murder and manslaughter is just the beginning of a long road ahead to end abuse and mistreatment by law enforcement.

We must make changes to repair the public’s broken trust and, ultimately, make everyone safer. I call upon my partners in law enforcement to join and support me in these efforts.


TribuneOP-ED: Why Derek Chauvin Got Convicted

Comments 41

  1. you clearly have a bad case of “foxitis” that is the defense interposed by some of the capitol rioters..what is “foxitis” it is the take away that these people got from constantly watching Fox opinion hosts…And lets be clear, Fox news eg the real journalists at Fox report exactly the same news as the journalists at CNN NBC CBS AND CNN…news has to be fact based..but what Fox and Murdoch have done is to allow the Carlsons Pirro’s Levins Hannity’s to talk about their opinions as if they were real news..they aren’t…They however want you to believe them as true because their sole goal is to prop up Trump and right wing republicans..This is how you can tell whether what you are listening to is fact or lies…If the opinon hosts no matter what network you choose to watch are on the same page as their on air journalists then you can take it to the bank that you are being told the truth But when the opinion hosts diverge from their nightly news you know you are being lied to….its’ that simple

  2. Mimi is a joke! Just goes to prove, any clown liberal with money can win with the democratic line. Mimi is using her office as a stepping ground for higher office and will try and and accomplish this at the expense of the safety of the community she is to protect. Mimi is not Law and order, Mimi is Chaos.

  3. A police officer murdered an American citizen and was held accountable for his actions. In this instance, justice was served. The murderer is now behind bars where he belongs.

    1. Actually it was just bad tactics, nice try. Chauvin was tried and convicted in the media. Not fair by any standard.

      1. A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air, according to indictments unsealed Friday.

  4. The truth is that this continued vilification of police has sent violent crime skyrocketing nationwide. And who is paying the price? People of color in depressed urban cities. It’s hard to believe that the average Black American is more concerned about being treated disrespectfully by the police than being terrorized in their own communities by violent thugs who no longer have any reason to obey the law.

  5. George Floyd was a lowlife junkie who lead a lifestyle that ultimately contributed to his demise. His years long pattern of breaking the law by committing armed robberies to support his drug addiction attibuted to the events just prior to his death. He was high that day and was trying to make a purchase with counterfeit money. Whether he was black,white, or brown he was a lowlife junkie that had zero regard for his own life and paid dearly. With that said the actions of Derek Chauvin were excessive and extreme, and he also is paying the price for his actions. Sadly if George Floyd complied without resistance which is the common denominator in just about every white cop black victim shooting he would be alive today. George Floyd knew he was going to prison for a long time potentially, and it resulted in irrational combative behavior which was fueled by the narcotics in his system. It’s just too bad we live in a society today where democrat politicians create this narrative to coddle criminals like George Floyd and embolden them with their anti police rhetoric. It is an utter disgrace also that George Floyd is being revered as some American icon like a soldier at war who lost their life fighting for their country

    Peter “CHIC”

    1. you don’t know what you are talking about…Floyd absolutely complied and Chauvin had him completely under control..and then decided to murder him….get your facts straight..watch the trial!

      1. Yes, you are right Floyd absolutely complied the 17 minutes before he was on the pavement. Kicking and trying to force his way out of back seat of police car is complying. Get your facts straight and watch the trial

        1. Floyd complied but the point is even if he didn’t By the time the handcuffs were on and he was on the ground he was compliant….no longer a threat…and Chauvin was dead wrong….the jury decided in 10 hours that should say something to you

  6. Cops are not killing people in Yonkers! But we do have a problem with youth killing other youth: brown and black youth shooting each other. Is any body angry enough about this in the black and brown community where they feel they should be out protesting this violence? When does this March begin? Crickets! Mimi can you come down and lecture the black and brown community and while your at it, let them know their youth will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to send a message! Let’s Go!

  7. It’s funny that most of the people who get killed by the cops bring it upon themselves by not handling their own shit. One guy got pulled over because he had expired tags and then he tried to run. Another guy in the restaurant and he didn’t answer because he didn’t show up at court. Another guy was that his ex girlfriends house attempting to sexually assault her and he got shot and he tried to run. Another kid caught a bullet after he assaulted a cop through his SUV window. Does anybody see a pattern here? Why does the community at large not reinforce the need to be responsible for yourself? Just sayin’ there are many many more millions of black brown and white people who make it through life without one police interaction. Wonder why. How about some good old parenting and community standards that people uphold. Eight year kid got shot in the chest tonight in Yonkers at oak and elm. Guess what, it wasn’t a cop who shot him. Every Weekend there are dozens of shootings in the communities activists speak of, none of them perpetrated by cops. This is gaslighting bullshit. Do the right thing stay in school and get a fucking job.

    1. be responsible for yourself? If everyone was we wouldn’t need the police would we..In every example you have given the underlying criminal behavior did not constitute a felony that required the police officer to shoot to kill…Floyd passed a counterfeit 20..did he know it was counterfeit..we will never know…Dante was driving with something hanging from the rear view mirror..nothing he did required him to be shot dead…In every example that we are seeing the police are overreacting..In my opinion cops are asserting their “power” intentionally to send a message to the public that they want to remain in control..It aint gonna go away however and policing will now be monitored…If cops can’t hack their departments own regs get the hell off the force…Good cops understand that a traffic stop should not end in a death….and in the absence of seeing a weapon their guns should not be fired period

  8. there is far to much disinformation appearing on these pages.. Those who insist on watching Fox news opinion hosts are being fed an alternative narrative which is anything but fact based news..There is a reason that these fox opinion hosts like Hannity INgraham Levin Pirro and Carlson don’t want to consider themselves “journalists” that way they have no obligation to report the “truth” and they don’t…The news side of FOx however does….CHris Wallace Bret Baer Neil Cavuto and formerly Shep SMith…These folks report the same facts as other mainstream networks like CBS ABC NBC CNN ETC….the poster who suggested that the jury was afraid of violence is misinformed…they were sequestered ….they saw no news and were limited to the evidence presented during the trial..If you can’t recognize the abuse of force that Chauvin used then you are blind and biased in favor of cops…The jury had to be unanimous…and they were, All twelve had to agree either to convict or to acquit…and they did…One juror commenting after the trial said that they could have reached a verdict in 20 minutes …but they insisted on doing it the right way…sentence by sentence..judges instructions to be followed precisely….it’s time that those of you who get your information from right wing media, understand that rupert murdoch is only interested in one thing….ratings and ad dollars..and if he knows that a ceratin sub set of Americans will simply parrot what they are told regardless of whether or not it is truthful…and so that is how they decide who is going to air….and I know this first hand from one of their many hosts who admitted exactly that…there are no substitutes for facts and truth…and slowly but surely Americans are recognizing that if they want their bias’ confirmed they should watch Fox…but if they want to learn what is really happening they can pick from any other straight news source

    1. So CNN is journalism?!! CNBC, FOx, MSN and all the rest are in the same basket of opinionated reporting. Have to go to International news to just get reporting without all the biased commentary. Just report the news/events, we do NOT need an interpretation.

      So sad, there is NO journalism or biased-free news reporting in the USA. All corporate sponsored and feeding a narrative from the 1% to keep division amongst the rest of the 99%. Wake up America!

      1. there is a big difference between an opinion based on facts and what the Fox news opinion hosts are doing…They don’t report facts..they report their version of whatever subject they want…this is not journalism….CNN NBC ABC CBS…all report stories in the news…their news readers DO NOT offer their opinions….FOX news is very careful to remind you in their tv ads that their news department is separate from their opinion hosts…Hannity Carlson Levin Ingraham and Pirro are not interested in objective facts..they are only interested in selling you a political point of view which 100% of the time is designed to advance donald trumps agenda…And they make sure that they confirm the bias of their viewers in order to hold their ratings up

        1. “CNN NBC ABC CBS…all report stories in the news…” That’s exactly what they report. Stories. Fiction to be exact. 4 years of Russian collusion is just one.

        2. You do realize you have ZERO credibility when you allude to CNN NBC ABC CBS as being reputable journalism as you claim. Hard to believe someone would make such an idiotic statement like this. That is very laughable how brainwashed you are

  9. Ms. Rocah, does accountability go both ways, or is this a one-way street? Should the African American community, in your opinion, be held accountable for their actions when dealing with officers of the law? Or are they going to get a free pass from you?

  10. He was convicted before his trial. All the riots and protests that happened after his death would have been 10 times worse had he been found not guilty. There was a fear in not convicting him in what could happen.
    Justice was properly served in this case .



  12. Most people agree that George Floyd shouldn’t have died that way. He also shouldn’t have been turned into a legend. In America today crime does pay, no more self accountability just excuses for criminal activity. Today we are controlled by a sick society and unfortunately certain politicians are enabling this behavior.Certain people are looking for a big payday by not listening to police when they get pulled over. They want a confrontation and hope the officer or officers get out of line. They gamble with their lives hoping to sue for a big pay day. What do you think the answer from George Floyd’s wife would be , if she was asked this question, If you can have him back but had to return the 27 million you got? Which answer you think she would give.

  13. As the District Attorney for Westchester County how can you comment on cases where the investigations have not been completed? Sounds like you may have to recuse your office God forbid a similar case should happen under your jurisdiction. Or is this to placate voters for your future endeavors? Despicable.

    1. The DA should voice her objective opinion on cases and issues of the law, especially those of national interests. This is the only way we will be able to understand how she plans to lead.

      However, there is an emerging feeling of her not localizing her voice especially when local media houses have to aggregate her opinions from CNN and other TV shows. Further, her show of disproportionate accessibility to any one local media radio/blog during her campaign should hopefully not be an indication that such outlet will have continued and exclusive access to her voice. Westchester remains a diverse county and as such residents are not affiliated with only one outlet.
      Her comms director Dan Weiller should be cognizant of ensuring cultural and social appeal in the sharing of the legal voice of the elected official whom he represents. This is not a celebrity status, or position. It is the position of the office of the highest cop in the county.

      Hoping the DA is preparing a virtual town hall to update us on her first 100 days soon. Local Media houses should have already been soliciting questions from residents as most don’t want a speech, we would prefer a dialogue.

      We know that specific details of pending cases cannot be addressed but general procedures and concerns about reform can and should be.
      We look forward to more objective and analytic opinions from DA Rocah, in the context and confines of home.

    2. The DA should voice her objective opinion on cases and issues of the law, especially those of national interest. This is the only way we will be able to understand how she plans to lead.

      However, there is an emerging feeling of her not localizing her voice especially when local media houses have to aggregate her opinions from CNN and other TV shows. Further, her show of disproportionate accessibility to any one local media radio/blog during her campaign should hopefully not be an indication that such outlet will have seemingly continued exclusive access to her voice and availability.

      Westchester remains a diverse county and as such, residents are not affiliated with only one outlet and its aligned perspectives.
      Her Comms Director Dan Weiller should be cognizant of ensuring cultural and social appeal in reaching all residents in all places where we choose to gather information.
      This is not a celebrity status or position. It is the office of the highest cop in the county. It’s responsibilities has far reaching implications but that has to be balanced with TV debuts versus local distribution of information.

      Hoping the DA is preparing a virtual or socially distance town hall to update us on her first 100+ days. Local media houses should have already been soliciting questions from residents as most don’t want a speech, we prefer dialogue.

      We know that pending cases can’t be discussed.
      We look forward to objective and analytical opinions from DA Rocah, in the context and confines of HOME.

  14. DA Rocah, while this is indeed a seminal case, we in Westchester county are still awaiting resolve on what would seem to constitute the 18 prior cases of Chauvin which precipitated this and which were unchecked.
    All that you have said in this op-Ed are the actions which we look forward to see in many of the cases still pending in Westchester.
    Just a few days ago. Elizabeth City NC was a sleepy community (like any in some parts of Westchester)not heard of in the news, and today it has almost overtaken the spotlight as we await the sentencing for Chauvin.
    Legal Aid society has written to the Gov since last year to revisit cases since 2010 in MVPD. Why was that year selected as a starting point? Will you seek the AG’s help in revisiting cases? It is incumbent on your office to ask the AG.
    Chauvin’s case has set a new bar for accountability for Prosecutors and Police. Let us reach that bar in actionable reform.
    I do believe also that Chauvin’s callousness would have resulted in the death of anyone he encountered that day under similar circumstances. Did he feel he would have gotten away with Floyd being a black man? Mostly likely, but we’ll never know because race was not a central argument during the trial. We do not need to beat the black and brown horse to death when eliminating unfit members from the profession of LE.

  15. a search warrant was just executed at the home of….wait for it…..RUDY GIULIANI…they siezed all his communications devices. In order to issue a search warrant the US attorney has to state in his affidavit specific information about a crime allegedly committed by Mr Giuliani

    1. The Feds have no credibility anyhow. They find only what they want to find and can’t seem to find other things that are visible.

      1. The FBI, starts with their conclusion after they’ve called a committee meeting with Washington DC in order to filter their response in to meet politically standards.
        If you

    2. Why didn’t they take the copies of Hunter Biden‘s laptop that Giuliani had?
      See no evil…
      Pure partisan prosecution in the deep state

      1. why are you so willing to believe Giuliani when he says he offered the agents Hunters hard drives…He is lying…Giuliani was a target of Russian disinformation campaign designed to keep Joe Biden from being the nominee. In his rush to defend anything Donald Trump, Giuliani may have broken the law…he may have been working for the Russian backed element in Ukraine. He may have been lobbying illegal in violation of the Foreign agents registration act. Of course he is going to deny it. Trump was the most corrupt president since Warren G Harding, in many ways… using the presidency to advance his personal financial interests violating the emoluments clause … using his hotels and golf clubs as a means of siphoning government money to his Trump org. by requiring the secret service to rent carts, stay in the hotels at prices far above what are usually paid. Then there is the extortion of the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on the person Trump knew would be running against him… Then there are the tweets that asked supporters to come to DC to “stop the steal” making allegations of fraudulent voting when nothing could be proven… So he invited them and lit the match to the insurrection… As you will find out Trump has run a criminal enterprise his entire adult life and now the chickens are going to come home to roost.

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