After Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict, here’s why it’s still so rare for a police officer to be tried and convicted of murder

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People celebrate Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 20, 2021.

  • Derek Chauvin’s conviction for murdering George Floyd was a rare case of accountability for a police killing.
  • Police kill around 1,000 people every year, but most cases do not result in criminal charges.
  • Experts say that lasting change in police accountability is unlikely to come from the courtroom.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd was met with relief. But it was also a rare case in which a police officer was punished for an unjustified killing.

It remains extraordinarily unlikely for police officers to be criminally charged for killing members of the public, and even more so for them to be convicted of murder by a jury.

Nearly a year after a viral video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds on a street in Minneapolis, a jury on Tuesday found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder.

Chauvin’s conviction marks the first time a white Minnesota police officer has been convicted for killing a Black person in the state.

“I think the natural favoritism and the bias in favor of police is always going to be the biggest obstacle,” Kate Levine, an associate professor at Cardozo School of Law and an expert in police prosecutions, told Insider.

Each year, police kill around 1,000 people. But, since 2005, just 139 law enforcement officers involved in an on-duty shooting have been arrested for murder or manslaughter, and just 44 have been convicted of a crime related to the shooting, according to database created by Philip Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University. Just one of these cases was in Minnesota, the state where Chauvin stood trial.

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Protesters during a silent march in memory of George Floyd on March 7, 2021, a day before jury selection began in Derek Chauvin’s trial.

But as Attorney General Keith Ellison said last June, “history shows that trying and winning a case like this one is hard.” Indeed, prosecuting a member of law enforcement is different from pursuing a case against an average person.

Police officers have the unique authority to use “reasonable” force when making an arrest or protecting themselves or others from harm. The determination of whether that force was reasonable, or rises to the level of criminal, is subjective.

Meanwhile, juries are more likely to believe a police officer’s version of events and how much force was warranted. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, fellow officers, who are seen as “highly credible eyewitnesses as well as experts in the proper use of force,” are unlikely to cross the so-called Blue Wall of Silence and testify against an officer who has been charged. One way that Chauvin’s case was exceptional was that his police chief, Medaria Arradondo, testified at trial that the killing of Floyd was not justified.

And finally, police who are charged with crimes are more likely to take their case to trial, rather than reach a plea deal with prosecutors, and they generally have access to experienced, high-priced lawyers, experts said. (In Chauvin’s case, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association covered the cost for his defense.)

In the case of Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department the day after Floyd’s death, the video evidence was unusually strong. The widely-viewed clips, shot from multiple angles, showed Floyd handcuffed on the ground by multiple officers and pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

Still, there have been other cases with strong video evidence involving police that never led to convictions, or even criminal charges.

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on video using a chokehold on Eric Garner as he said “I can’t breathe,” but was never charged for Garner’s death. Video showed police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shooting Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop in a Minnesota suburb. At trial, Yanez was acquitted of all charges.

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People react to the Derek Chauvin verdict in Minneapolis on April 20, 2021.

George Floyd’s murder helped helped launch the “Defund the Police” movement and sparked a racial reckoning across America. But it is not yet clear if the successful prosecution of Chauvin will have a lasting change on how police officers who kill civilians are treated.

Charges in three of the five cases since 2005 in which law enforcement officers were charged with homicide for choking-related deaths were filed after Floyd’s death, Stinson’s data shows.

Cases of civilians being killed by police mounted even while Chauvin stood trial. According to an analysis by the New York Times, there were three such killings a day since March 29, when testimony against Chauvin began.

These included the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago on March 29. On April 11, not far from the courthouse where Chauvin was tried, an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, fatally shot Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop. And just 20 minutes before Chauvin’s verdict was read out, a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.

It is not yet clear if any of those shootings will result in criminal charges.

Levine said she thinks the prosecution of police officers is not a fix for creating lasting change within police departments and stopping brutality.

“It’s a systemic problem that i don’t believe will be solved by the individual bad apple solutions,” she said. Instead, she recommended reducing police contact with citizens and defunding police departments.

“If we continue to ask police to continuously intervene in everyone’s lives and we continue to let them believe everyone is out to get them and continue to carry firearms, I think we will continue to see instances of police brutality.”

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Store owners in Minneapolis are boarding up ahead of the Derek Chauvin murder-trial verdict, fearing potential unrest

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Law enforcement stands guard as crews remove artwork from temporary fencing outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 2, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Businesses in Minneapolis are preparing for the Derek Chauvin murder-trial verdict.
  • Fearing unrest, some restaurant and store owners are boarding up their premises.
  • An owner of a dry cleaners told the New York Times he’d cleared out his store.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Stores and restaurants in Minneapolis are preparing for potential unrest as they await the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old former police officer, is accused of killing George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his body for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The jury heard closing arguments of the trial on Monday. The verdict could arrive this week.

Floyd’s death triggered months-long protests over racism and police brutality in the US and worldwide. Some stores, including in Minneapolis, were damaged or looted, and now some business owners in the city are preempting possible unrest after the Chauvin verdict by boarding up or emptying their stores.

The Wall Street Journal reported that some businesses, including a Target, were boarded up on downtown’s Nicollet Mall. The New York Times also reported that phone stores, furniture shops, restaurants including Quruxlow and Hook Fish & Chicken, and Mercado Central, a Latino market in the city, had been boarded up.

An NPR reporter tweeted on Wednesday that Haskell’s wine shop was also boarded up.

Samir Patel, owner of dry-cleaning shop Elite Cleaners, told the Times on Monday that he’d moved customers’ clothes to his home. He hadn’t boarded up the shop, he said.

“We don’t know what will happen,” he added.

Read more: Derek Chauvin’s trial is testing the stress levels of Black Americans. Here’s what leaders and allies can do to help.

Patel said his shop suffered half a million dollars in damage in the civil unrest following Floyd’s death. He had to exhaust his savings and retirement accounts to reopen the business, he said. The city looked like “a war zone” at the time, he added.

From Wednesday, schools in Minneapolis will switch to remote learning, and razor wire has been wrapped around police buildings. National Guard troops are already present in some areas of downtown Minneapolis.

Insider has reached out to other businesses and retailers in Minneapolis to see how they’re preparing.

Are you a business owner in Minneapolis? Get in touch with this reporter via Twitter, or email kduffy@insider.com.

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Minneapolis and other US cities are beefing up their security and shutting down schools ahead of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

  • US cities are increasing policing ahead of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, CNN reported.
  • In Minneapolis, wire is around police buildings, classes will go online, and the National Guard is out.
  • Chauvin was charged in the death of George Floyd, and jury deliberations are due to start next week.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Minneapolis and other US cities are increasing security and policing ahead of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, CNN reported.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May 2020. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd said he could not breathe.

Floyd’s death sparked months of protests against racism and police brutality across the US and worldwide.

Razor wire has been put around a police building in downtown Minneapolis, CNN reported, and Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told CNN that similar measures are being taken at other police precincts.

CNN also reported that National Guard troops are in some parts of downtown Minneapolis.

Public schools will also learn to remote learning from Wednesday in anticipation of the verdict, Superintendent Ed Graff said, according to CNN.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Jury deliberations are due to start next week.

Daunte Wright
Daunte Wright was killed at a traffic stop by a Minneapolis police officer on April 11, 2021.

Minneapolis is already facing ongoing protests after police killed20-year-old Daunte Wright a few miles away from the courthouse where Chauvin’s trial is taking place.

And several other high-profile shootings by police officers have left other cities on edge.

Oher police departments told CNN that they will have additional officers out, or have additional officers available, as the trial ends: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Multiple police departments, including New York, also told CNN that they want people to protest peacefully.

Atlanta and Washington D.C. police departments also said they are ready and will respond to incidents quickly.

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