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How The Chauvin Trial Could Impact Policing


To talk about what this verdict might mean for law enforcement going forward, we are joined by NPR's Martin Kaste, who has been talking with his sources in police forces around the country.

Hi, Martin.


SHAPIRO: What are people who work as police officers telling you about this verdict, and what do they expect it might mean for them?

KASTE: Well, I called one recently retired officer I know, and he said, some are jubilant about this verdict; others have gotten quiet - kind of a sense of a division there. It probably cuts along age, to some degree. The national office of the biggest union, the Fraternal Order of Police, put out a statement calling - basically saying the system of justice had worked as it should and that the trial was fair, that due process was served. So, you know, that's a big concern, obviously, for police officers is the sense of whether or not there's due process, whether they'll be judged fairly or not. There - the biggest union so far says that is what happened here.

I generally get a sense from the police officers I've talked to that they mostly dislike Chauvin. They don't like the stain that his actions have put on the profession and how hard that's made - or harder it's made for them to do their job. And I think there's a sense - there's a hope here that that relief you're hearing in Minneapolis will extend nationally and maybe make things a little easier going into the summer because a violent crime is still pretty up. And there is some concern about just sort of relationships with the communities where policing is really needed right now.

SHAPIRO: We heard so many Democratic political leaders tonight push for new legislation. Whether or not that passes, do you think that this verdict is going to change certain aspects of policing?

KASTE: Well, it's a decentralized system, as we keep saying, you know, each - you know, thousands and thousands of police departments. I think it's more about a sense of cultural change and kind of is a changing set of what - expectations about what an officer may do on the job. That officer I was talking to before from - formerly from Baltimore, his name is Leon Taylor. He's also African American. He said the guilty verdict is what he calls a Band-Aid on a significant problem.

LEON TAYLOR: We do have officers that don't understand the communities that they work in, and that breeds a certain contempt. And that contempt breeds a disregard for the lives of the people that, you know, officers are supposed to be serving and protecting. And that's how you get a Derek Chauvin. What makes a Derek Chauvin is out there in patrol cars all over.

KASTE: So you really hear him there talking about a sense of maybe a cultural change being needed still among some officers.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. We saw so many officers testify against Derek Chauvin, which is really unusual. Do you think we're likely to see more of that in future trials?

KASTE: Yeah, not totally unprecedented, but definitely unusual. The Minneapolis police chief testified against Chauvin. He did also a couple of years ago against another Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor. I think, ultimately, this is about a sense whether or not police will be good witnesses for the prosecution if they feel like a video captures bad behavior by one of their colleagues. I think you will see this more when they feel that it's the right thing to do to speak out against that.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Martin Kaste on the impact of today's guilty verdict on law enforcement in the U.S.

Thanks, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.