2021 | Opinion

County leaders react to George Floyd verdict

Former Minneapolis police officer was convicted of murder

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After a jury on Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, officials in Montgomery County shared their reactions to the verdict.

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From Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich:

It is a sad reality that Black Americans continue to suffer disproportionate use of force, which far too often leads to fatal consequences. And George Floyd’s case is neither the first example of this, nor the last.

These victims were deprived of justice while they lived and are too often victims even in death. So, it is not surprising that so many of us have been looking to the trial for a sign that the arc is bending toward justice even when the assailant is a police officer.

The conviction of Derek Chauvin will not bring George Floyd back, it will not make his family whole, but it will send the message that in America justice can be achieved. Hopefully, it will mark a turning point that liberates prosecutors and juries to administer justice regardless of the profession of the accused.

There is no doubt that George Floyd was murdered despite posing no threat to the officers who surrounded him or the members of public who looked on in horror. It wasn’t just excessive force; it was lethal force, and it was unnecessary.

There are just too many cases where the level of force bears no relationship to the crime — and this must end.

Here in Montgomery County, we are moving forward with a comprehensive review of how we hire, how we train, and how we police.

It’s why we’ve established policies that clearly define expected practices: banning chokeholds, changing the rules on no-knock warrants, and implementing a “duty to intervene” so that no officer in our County will do what happened in Minneapolis, where officers sworn to protect the community stood by as another officer spent nine minutes ending the life of George Floyd.

Now is our moment to institute significant institutional changes that will benefit all our residents, rebuild confidence in our police, and restore the morale of our officers. We are well on our way on this work and are committed to ensuring an equitable outcome for everyone.

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From the Montgomery County Board of Education and Montgomery County Public Schools:

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of George Floyd.

This has been a difficult and painful year. The pain from fighting a deadly virus has been exacerbated and heightened by the all too frequent public killings of African Americans by law enforcement officers.

This pain has focused our nation on the longstanding historical injustices that have plagued our nation since its founding. We have struggled to come together as one united community.

While the verdict brings this trial to a close, the conversation about structural racism and inequity must continue in our homes, communities and schools. MCPS has provided staff with resources to support our students with this conversation.

It is with hope that we can now begin to heal. We will take the lessons from this experience and work together to build a better and more equitable world.

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From the Montgomery County Council:

What a relief. We’re going to feel the country, even the whole world, breathe a sigh of relief. 

This is a very cathartic series of verdicts by the jury. These verdicts show that the system can work, and that justice and morality can prevail in the wake of this tragedy. 

Let’s remember: No guilty verdicts will ever wipe away the suffering and torture that George Floyd endured as he took his last breath. No verdicts can make the Floyd family whole.

These verdicts do demonstrate that excessive use of force by law enforcement to murder Black men and women in America will not be tolerated.

“Today we are also reflecting on the courage and strength of the Floyd family who have risen above division and hate to seek justice not only for George Floyd but for Black people across our nation. 

We will continue to honor George Floyd’s legacy in Montgomery County by pushing for fundamental changes in policing and our criminal justice system to ensure police accountability. We are committed to reimagining public safety to bring an end to the cycle of violence, provide equal protection under the law and build a better future based on the needs of all our residents.

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From Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker:

No guilty verdict will wipe away the suffering George Floyd endured as he took his last breath. No verdict can make the Floyd family whole.

These verdicts do demonstrate that excessive use of force by law enforcement to murder Black men & women in America will not be tolerated.

I’m reflecting on the courage of the Floyd family, who have channeled extraordinary strength over the past year in seeking justice, not only for George Floyd, but for Black people across our nation. From the heat of this moment, we will emerge stronger and more unified.

We will honor Mr. Floyd’s legacy by pushing for fundamental changes in policing & our criminal justice system. We are committed to reimagining public safety to bring an end to the cycle of violence, provide equal protection under the law & build a better future for all residents.

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From Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice:

I couldn’t be more happy with the verdict. But the fact that a man is dead because he was alleged to have tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill still doesn’t sit right with me.

And keep in mind, we were sitting on pins and needles awaiting the verdict when it was clear with video evidence that Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd.

That speaks to how little faith we have in the accountability process for officers who clearly violate department policy and the law.

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From Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando:

Last year, the whole world watched while George Floyd was slowly choked to death in broad daylight by a police officer. It was abundantly clear then what the jury decided today: that former officer Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder. George Floyd should be alive today, surrounded by the people who love him.

The heartbreaking truth is this is one case that was caught on video and shared by a bystander. A tragedy that, unfortunately, is not unique. Too often systems of injustice that are supposed to protect life do the exact opposite.

We have seen too many deaths at the hands of policing in the United States. Today, in this case, justice has been served. But it has not been served for too many men, women, and children who have lost their lives — people such as Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Robert White, Elijah McClain, Finan Berhe, Atatiana Jefferson, Rayshard Brooks, Dominique Williams, James Johnson. Their lives mattered.

Let this verdict serve as a wake-up call to those who have been ignorant of the state sanctioned violence and dehumanization that Black people and other people of color have experienced for hundreds of years.

While I acknowledge that a guilty conviction can never bring back those lives stolen by police violence, including Mr. Floyd’s, we are still better served by a system that shows that it can be held accountable. We have to work to fundamentally transform these systems and I’ll continue to use the power of my position as an At-Large Member of the Montgomery County Council to do just that.

Rest in peace, George Floyd.

Today and everyday, Black Lives Matter.

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From state Del. Lorig Charkoudian:

The verdict is right & just. That we worried about if there would be a just verdict means we still have work to do.

The fact that George Floyd’s family (and so many other families) will never have their loved ones back means we have much work to do.

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From Anne Khademian, the executive director of The Universities at Shady Grove:

Never forget the tragedy that a man lost his life & this tragedy continues to happen day in & day out.

We must support every member of our community, look out for each other, speak out & take action to continuously improve our system of justice. #BlackLivesMatter #GeorgeFloyd

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From John B. King Jr. of Silver Spring, a former U.S. education secretary now running for Maryland governor:

Though today’s verdict will not bring George Floyd back, I am relieved that Derek Chauvin has been held accountable. As a Black man in America, I know firsthand that we fail to get justice far too often.

In Maryland, the General Assembly has taken significant comprehensive action to help hold police accountable. But, the truth is there is more we must do as a state and as a nation to ensure justice for Black people.

That starts with dismantling systemic inequality everywhere and creating policies that truly work for us and center and respect our lives. My thoughts are with the Floyd family — I hope they can now get some measure of the peace they deserve.

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From Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who lives in Montgomery County:

We watched the life being crushed from George Floyd in slow motion, over 9 ½ minutes. This verdict confirms what every person who watched the video already knew. We hope that this verdict brings a small measure of relief to Mr. Floyd’s family.

Justice has been done. But, this cannot be the end. Systemic problems with policing & with equal justice require reform. MD has taken steps to improve the quality of policing & the quality of justice. Work remains to be done. Our office is committed to continuing that work.

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From state Del. Jheanelle Wilkins:

We need the legal system to work for Black people every time. But more importantly, we need an end to police violence. Enough.

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From Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 and from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 Montgomery County Government Employees Organization:

Yesterday’s verdict proves that our criminal justice system can and will work, while maintaining due process for all.

As labor leaders, we understand there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to repair the bond between law enforcement and all communities they serve.

Lodge 35 and MCGEO Local 1994, which represents approximately 1,500 law enforcement officers, stand ready to roll up our sleeves and help lead the way to achieving reforms that will restore and strengthen the bonds between our members and the communities they serve.

We welcome the opportunity to work with our political and community leaders to develop defined public policies that build transparency into law enforcement to help restore that trust. While advocating for the health and dignity of both our communities and our members, we are prepared to engage in a community-driven collaborative process to formulate a new Public Safety Vision.

We welcome the opportunity to have all voices at the table to explore solutions — including the front-line public safety professionals who will be tasked with implementing this new vision.

Meaningful change will not come from simplistic approaches. Honest collaboration, sincerity, and hard work are the keys to progress. Together, we can develop innovative approaches to promoting public safety that recognize the sanctity of human life, embrace our cultural diversity, increase the public’s trust in the profession and strengthen the relationship between our members and our communities.

Yesterday’s verdict may well be the starting point of meaningful reforms.