George Floyd was killed 435 miles away in front of a Minneapolis convenience store, but his death was felt in Homewood and Flossmoor.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, and from May 30 through June 18 H-F residents joined people around the world in taking to the streets for a series of marches and rallies to protest violence against people of color.
On April 20, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin concluded with jurors finding him guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Several H-F leaders issued statements this past week in response to the verdict. The Chronicle asked several more to share their thoughts in response to three questions:
- What was their initial response to the verdict?
- What do they think the verdict means in the larger context of law enforcement?
- What do they think the verdict means for the H-F community?
Rosalind Henderson-Mustafa of Flossmoor lost her grandfather to police violence in 1925. She described a sense of relief when she heard the verdict.
"It was not a time to cheer. George Perry Floyd should be alive. My grandfather should have lived a long, full life," she said.
She said she does not expect the verdict will necessarily herald a big change in society. Rather, it is a key moment in a social evolution that began long before and will continue long after.
"Police reform and social justice are not an end game. They are pieces of a system of racism that permeates the American fabric. It is a cloth woven of pain, suffering, torment and inhumanity. The threads contain privilege, supremacy and intimidation," she said. "Change started long before Chauvin and continues; the pace must increase. Only we can make that happen by showing up and voicing and pushing and never letting go of our fight for humanity."
For the H-F community, the case illustrates the need to engage in difficult conversations and to "challenge the status quo of silence, intolerance, assumption and stereotypes."
"The verdict has meaning if it opens eyes. The verdict has meaning if it serves as the line that even the doubters can't ignore," she said. "Inhumanity for one is inhumanity for all. As a community, we must protect each other from even the possible, slight chance of being treated unfairly, unjustly. We know it can and will happen, even if unknowingly. But, when we know what that looks like, our eyes are open to stop it."
More statements from community leaders
Eugene Dumas of Flossmoor is the long-time executive director at the Center for Multicultural Communities.
I'm glad a guilty verdict was given. A positive change is starting to be made in our justice system.
Our community can see a move to equal justice for all.
Destiny Watson is the founder and director of You Matter 2, a youth empowerment and community service organization in the South Suburbs.
My initial reaction to the verdict was that I was shocked, because I was unsure of what the outcome would be. I cried tears of joy as I witnessed the verdict being read. It's not every day that we see police being held accountable for their actions, and it brought a sense of hope knowing that this is possible. The justice system (did) exactly what it was suppose to do for once.
In the larger context of police reform, this verdict will hopefully force officers to think about their actions, increase de-escalation training, and more importantly hold their coworkers accountable when they witness actions that are out of line or harmful.
As for social justice, this verdict shows that there is much more work to be done, our voices have been heard through protests all around the world. This is only one case and there are many others fighting for the same justice.
This was a sign of hope and a step forward, yet this should've been happening a long time ago. True justice would be George Floyd still being alive, because this shouldn't have happened in the first place. It's unfortunate that it took a pandemic, quarantine, and George Floyd for the world to see what Black people are up against every day they leave their homes.
This verdict shows our community that showing up for those protests last summer was not just a moment, and we have to continue showing up time and time again because we never know when it could happen in our community. We have to continue to use our voice for good and make it known that we won't tolerate any injustices.
Von Mansfield, the superintendent of Homewood-Flossmoor School District 233, sent this statement to residents by email.
The issue of systemic racism continues to be brought to the forefront on an almost daily basis. The most recent events include yesterday's verdict of the murder of George Floyd, and the recent deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota. Our students, staff and families are experiencing high levels of emotion that include sadness, fear, anger and — for some — even trauma with each loss that occurs. It is our hope that difficult conversations are taking place around this topic in each of our students' homes to some resolve, as they will be our leaders of tomorrow for positive change.
Please know that we are here to serve and support our students and that we have counseling services available for anyone who needs additional support. We encourage anyone who may be struggling or who has questions during these challenging times to talk with a trusted adult.
At H-F, we will continue our commitment to providing the change and education needed to address the issues of systemic racism, injustice and inequity. We want every one of our students to feel supported, safe, seen and heard. We pledge to foster a strong, inclusive, culturally responsive and caring community throughout our school, and we will continue to do our part through education and action to empower our students and staff to build a more just, safer society for our future.
Thank you for your partnership as we work together to support our students, staff and community.
Tod Kamleiter is the chief of the Flossmoor Police Department. His statement was sent to village residents by email and posted on the village website.
Following the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd, I want to reaffirm to our residents the Flossmoor Police Department’s commitment to being a partner with our community and a law enforcement system that is fair for all.
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to have an open dialogue with many residents and I appreciate your willingness to engage with me candidly. We have made a concerted effort in increasing education and training in our department and in the past few years, our officers have undergone approximately 300 hours of training on topics like cultural competence and implicit bias. Members of our leadership team have also participated in training provided by the Government Alliance on Racial Equity and the North Shore YWCA Equity Institute.
Along with extensive training, the Flossmoor Police Department has updated its use of force policy to meet new federal guidelines on chokeholds, updated citizen comment/complaint forms, and will be implementing a body worn camera system later this year. It is my expectation that every member of the Flossmoor Police Department engages with members of the public respectfully and demonstrates integrity in all of our actions.
The Village of Flossmoor prides itself on being a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community and our residents and institutions support these values. As a community we must continue to have meaningful dialogue and work together as we look toward a place of healing and unity.
I am grateful for the trust you have in me. Members of the Flossmoor Police Department and I look forward to this important work in building trusted relationships with our community.
Denise McGrath is chief of the Homewood Police Department. Her statement was sent to residents by email and was posted on the village website.
Abuse of authority is a problem that is as old as time. However, it is never more egregious as when a law enforcement officer abandons the oath of office and the most basic principles of human decency. Derek Chauvin disgraced an honorable and noble profession, and I applaud the justice system and those individuals who denounced his actions with a clear and decisive guilty verdict.
While I am fiercely proud of the men and women of the Homewood Police Department, I also recognize that we always have the ability to do better, to be better. As local, state, and national entities call for police reform, more accountability, and more transparency, we will evaluate and implement actions that support those principles. My commitment, especially to our Black and Brown community members, is that we will provide a safe and welcoming village for you. We will be present in the community and increase non-enforcement interactions with our residents and visitors to build new relationships and improve existing ones.
While the Homewood Police Department is considered a small agency in the criminal justice world, we will strive to be the department that serves as the “gold standard” model and blueprint for other agencies across the country.
I hope the community will join us on this journey to shape the future of criminal justice, social justice, and restorative justice. I hope we embrace our differences and use them to strengthen the foundation of our community and the criminal justice system. Individually and together with values of honesty, compassion, and equity, we have the power to be a positive force of change.
Danielle Nolen-Ragland of Homewood is a leader of South Suburbs for Greenspace Over Concrete, a multiracial environmental advocacy organization that formed to oppose the redevelopment of Calumet Country Club into a trucking hub.
I was shocked, then happy, then guilty, then in disbelief ... and then the tears started. I felt grateful, angry, hopeful, and pessimistic, all at once.
It's hard to be happy here knowing this proves that if ever in trouble, someone shouldn't help me — they should just record so a jury will believe what happened is real enough to hold someone accountable. It's hard to be happy knowing so many other officers are not on trial. It's hard to be happy knowing that George suffered for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It's a relief that (Chauvin) has been convicted and I remember Rodney King, so I know what a leap forward this verdict is ... but still, this is hard.
I think this verdict means nothing in the larger context of police reform, being honest. It means a lot of people slept better on Tuesday night, but not me ... this verdict didn't save Ma'Khia Bryant, nor the next Black child/mother/father/person killed by law enforcement because of this system with direct roots to slave capture and privilege.
It didn't keep me from making sure my dad made it home safely from my house last night, because we both know there are now officers on the road likely feeling slighted by this verdict. It didn't fix the minds of those who believe "blue lives" are real. It's a good sign, but it is still a life lost that someone had to record in order to get any semblance of accountability. It is entirely a unique situation.
Unfortunately, it means very little because unlike Flossmoor PD (who has been open in both dialogue and acts with their residents over the last year), Homewood PD remained silent until Chief McGrath's lip service email today. It appeared to be a response to Chief Kamleiter's statement more than a response to society itself, not only due to timing of release, but the lack of specifics offered within its generalized promises to "provide a safe and welcoming village" for all Black and Brown community members.
Much as posting on social media does not suffice as "doing the work," neither does sending a vague email containing wants and wishes for being "the gold standard model and blueprint for other agencies across the country" without any ideas, suggestions, or steps for how that will occur. Instead of buzzworthy verbiage without much substance, I would have appreciated a call to the community for input, thus opening a direct line of communication starting with that email. That would make the statement we received today better than simple lip service, even if only in appearance.
Richard Hofeld is the mayor of Homewood, an office he has held since 1997.
The verdict was justified. There is accountability for actions.
It is a step forward in justice for all.
As an all-inclusive community this reaffirms our belief, and our living that belief, that social injustices must end.
The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan had made the following statement some years ago. She was right on track.
"I felt for years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'"
Michelle Nelson is the mayor-elect of Flossmoor.
This is an important step in the fight for social justice.
I think the verdict is a sign that progress is being made in the justice system and that the system can work for those who are victims of excessive force.
I wouldn’t say the verdict is a sign of reform in and of itself; it is a step in the right direction. Police departments need to review their use of force policies with this specific case in mind and adjust their policies accordingly.
I’ve had several opportunities to discuss incidents of police misconduct that have occurred in other cities with our chief of police. Our department regularly reviews their practices and our officers have undergone approximately 300 hours of training in the past few years on topics such as cultural competence, implicit bias, and excessive use of force. Additionally, all Flossmoor police officers will be fitted with body cameras within the next year.
(The verdict) provides an opportunity for us to discuss the importance of true community policing, relationships, and ongoing training opportunities that prioritize the safety of our residents.