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Peoria Leaders: Chauvin Verdict Can Help Improve Policing, Justice

Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell (left); City Council member-elect Andre Allen (right)

Andre Allen believes Tuesday’s guilty verdicts in the case of George Floyd’s death can serve as a step in the right direction toward better community policing.

“I think this will be something that we'll look back in our history as a turning point,” said Allen, the outgoing chairman of Peoria’s Police-Community Relations committee who was recently elected as the next Fourth District city council member.

“I think it has an opportunity, even though it was a negative situation, to provide a lot of good when it comes to police accountability, which I think is very important when you're looking at how to build police and community relations.”

On Tuesday, a Minnesota jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on three charges related to Floyd's death last May: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The former Minneapolis police officer faces up to 40 years in prison.

Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said while the criminal justice system is imperfect, it can be improved through continued dialogue -- conversations he believes may be difficult but meaningful.

“We all, all parties involved, just need to take a breath and sit down and really try to map this out to have some true reform,” said Asbell.

Peoria mayor-elect Rita Ali viewed the verdict as a historic moment for equal justice that can hopefully restore some faith in the system. She said the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes provided enough proof in the court of public opinion before it produced a conviction in the courtroom.

“Everybody in America who saw what happened, we saw what happened. I think it was just confirmed with those three guilty decisions. Justice was served, and I think we're proud to be Americans with that kind of result,’” said Ali, adding she's proud the timing is intertwined with her election as Peoria's first African American mayor.

Allen said the video evidence that led to Chauvin’s conviction Chauvin was “pretty clear cut,” while Asbell said the public expects officers committing misconduct to be held accountable and what happened to Floyd went against any established police procedure.

“Anyone in the profession, when that happened last year and they saw that video for the first time, they winced,” said Asbell. “They were like, ‘Oh no’ -- myself included. It's about accountability and it's on so many different levels.”

Asbell said his office's mission statement is to help people, and officers who live by that motto won’t find themselves in situations like Chauvin's.

Allen said Floyd's death illustrates a need to ensure police officers receive the proper training and resources to keep citizens safe, while law enforcement agencies need to review their procedures to make sure they aren't enabling officer misconduct.

“If you are an airline and when one of your planes is malfunctioning, you're going to check the other planes to make sure that they don't have the same errors,” said Allen. “So I think that this is an opportunity to say, ‘OK, wow, if this could happen there, then we need to review our processes to ensure that it doesn't repeat itself.’”

Allen said he was optimistic of a guilty verdict when the jury returned after deliberating a day.

“The evidence was very strong; in my lifetime (it) is the first strong visual that we really had of what took place,” he said, eluding to previous cases of police misconduct against Black men. “I think for African American community, it's a small win. But we've seen this movie before, so I think some of us had our expectations managed where we assumed that a guilty verdict would come but, we've seen before where it hasn't come.”

Allen said America cannot tolerate any more similar incidents.

“Not only is that bad from a societal standpoint, when you look at the effect that that murder had on our country: causing some peaceful protests and some non-peaceful protests, things of that nature because our society is at boiling point right now; then also when you look at the settlement that came from that,” said Allen, noting a $27 million settlement from the City of Minneapolis to Floyd’s family.

“If a settlement like that hit certain smaller municipalities, that could bankrupt a city. So, I think we must understand how important it is to ensure that we are providing the proper resources and putting mechanisms in place to ensure that officers are performing at the standard and that the quality that we demand from them.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.