Capital Region activists said more still needs to be done to reach equality for Black people across the country, following the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.
Chauvin, who was convicted of second-degree murder after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, was sentenced Friday. The prosecution had asked for the maximum sentence of 40 years, while Chauvin’s attorney asked for time served and probation.
“Considering verdicts and sentences from the past I think this is definitely better than what we’ve had before,” said Rev. Nicolle Harris, the president of the Schenectady chapter of the NAACP. “I don’t think anything that was given would be equivalent or match the crime because of how heinous it was.”
During the sentencing hearing, several members of Floyd’s family spoke about the impact of his death, including Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna via video.
“I ask about him all the time,” she said.
She said her dad’s spirit remains with her every day and that she hopes to play with him when she sees him again one day.
Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd said Gianna will never have any memories with her father.
“Daddy’s are a daughter’s first love,” he said. “He will never get to walk Gianna down the aisle at her wedding, attend those magical moments like a daddy-daughter dance, sweet 16, see her off to proms, graduation and she will never have any memories with her father.”
Saratoga Black Lives Matter activist Lexis Figuereo said the 22.5-year sentence was a better punishment than the probation his lawyer was asking for but still not enough.
“In my opinion, he should’ve gotten life behind bars with no parole,” he said. “Because he’s a police officer he should be held to a higher standard than a regular person.”
Figuereo, who has a daughter and stepson, said it was disgusting that Floyd’s daughter had to experience the entire event.
Both Figuereo and Harris said the work does not stop here.
The policies and procedures of police departments need to be examined, Harris said. “Then continuing to hold police officers accountable when they themselves do criminal things,” she said. “What he did to George Floyd was criminal and police officers are not above the law. We want to count on them and depend on them to uphold the law but they’re human. So, they can break the law just like anyone else and when they do they need to be held accountable.”
Figuereo said the fight for transparency from police departments and measures to protect people’s lives need to happen.
Floyd’s death, the deaths of other Black people and the protests that have followed have led to police reform initiatives across the state.
“Police chiefs across New York engage in things to bring communities together and I think we’ll continue to do that,” Figuereo said. “We’ll continue to do what we need to do to reach out to the community.”
In Floyd’s death, Figuereo said, “It seemed like the criminal justice system worked.”
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, also spoke on behalf of her family, stating Chauvin was not cold-hearted, aggressive or a racist.
Derek Chauvin only gave condolences to the Floyd family and said there would be more information forthcoming that the family should know, but did not provide details on what that material is.
“I hope things will give you some peace of mind,” he said.
He did not offer further comment, citing other ongoing legal matters.
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford did not respond to a request for comment by press time and Amsterdam Police Department Sgt. Joseph Spencer declined to comment.
The Minnesota judge provided a 22-page legal analysis for his sentencing decision. That document can be viewed at https://t.co/tn92lmeHcu?ssr=true.
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