President Biden made many valid points in his speech following the Chauvin trial verdict, the most important of which was: “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” cautioning us that much work remains to be done. Both he and Vice President Harris reminded us that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280) has not been passed, and we desperately need that to happen.
George Floyd’s death brought home just how much racism plays a role in policing. Floyd was stopped for allegedly passing a $20 counterfeit bill and paid with his life. Forbes shared in June what happened when Mark McCoy, an archaeology professor, was arrested for the same charge. McCoy spent the night in jail and completed six months of probation. McCoy said that he joked about the issue at parties and never feared the type of treatment received by Floyd. When his tweet about the issue became the most liked and retweeted story at Twitter, he not only saw his own white privilege but thought about how he knew nothing about what life is like for black people. We know we are treated differently, but others do not. The more this issue is discussed and addressed, the more likely we can realize equity.
Passing H.R. 1280 can help in establishing equal treatment under the law when it comes to policing. President Biden’s new Attorney General, however, is not waiting for that to happen. AP reported that AG Garland has launched a probe into policing activities in Minneapolis. While the DOJ was already looking at violation of Floyd’s civil rights, Garland wants to look at “potentially systemic policing issues” in Minneapolis, especially considering that three other officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death were fired, charged, and will go on trial in August according to New York Times. AP also reported that former AG Bill Barr “considered” the same probe but was “hesitant” of making things worse. Barr was not worried; the former administration could have cared less, but President Biden’s administration is already showing that they plan to get to the heart of inequality in policing based on race.
If the DOJ discovers a “pattern and practice” in policing activities in Minneapolis, the department will sue and force changes. While nothing has been said about using this method in other cities, it would not be surprising if Garland takes this nationwide. He specifically pointed out that his investigation is based on federal laws that protect citizens from “unconstitutional or unlawful policing.” Similar investigations in other cities and states, then, are possible, especially since Garland mentioned that these problems are “deeply woven into our history.” Garland said: “Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us,” but he promised to investigate “with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait.” In this respect, Garland sounds a lot like President Biden.
Biden thoughtfully and carefully chose his team members. Together, they can make changes that will ultimately lead to relief for black and brown people from selective policing.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years