Apr 15, 2021 2 mins, 21 secs

As he prepares for work each morning, Tighe O’Meara, the police chief in Ashland, Oregon, tunes in to coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in the killing of George Floyd last year.

But O’Meara, who is white, also sees the trial as a test of whether police can regain the trust of many Americans, most of all the Black and the Latino residents who disproportionately live in high-crime, highly policed neighborhoods.

When Michael Persley, the police chief in Albany, Georgia, watches the trial, he sees the profession he loves at a crossroads.

(Chauvin’s defense team has said that Floyd’s underlying health conditions and drug use — not Chauvin’s restraint methods — caused Floyd’s death.) But some officers complained that the trial has not sufficiently examined Chauvin’s frame of mind, or the fear that officers feel while trying to arrest someone who does not want to be taken into custody.

A sergeant in the New York City Police Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason, said he and other officers saw Chauvin’s trial as a reason to think twice before using force against someone who is resisting arrest.

“It has an effect on police officers, no doubt about it, and for some officers it can even affect the way they approach certain situations,” the sergeant, who is white, said.

Since the trial began, protests erupted in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, after a white officer shot and killed a Black motorist, and Virginia authorities announced an investigation of a December roadside stop in which officers threatened and pepper sprayed a Black Army officer.

Cedric Alexander, the former public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, and the former police chief of Rochester, New York, said it has been relatively easy for law enforcement officials to condemn Chauvin’s actions because it is “a pretty straightforward case of abuse.” That is a good thing, he said.

Jake VerHalen, a sergeant who oversees patrol officers with the Folsom Police Department in California and is president of the local officers union, has been following the trial daily, and said it seemed to have been conducted fairly.

Lynda Williams, a former deputy director of the Secret Service and president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said the Chauvin trial must be viewed as part of a long history of police using their power against Black and brown people disproportionately

Lou Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange, Georgia, said the Chauvin trial has illustrated the importance of police and elected leaders improving the training and supervision of officers and holding accountable those who violate department policies or use excessive force

“I hope it’s a wakeup call for police leaders who don’t follow this stuff,” Dekmar, who is white, said


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