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Vermonters relieved after Derek Chauvin conviction but say it’s not enough

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 11:38 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:54 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington was quiet after the guilty verdict, but people on Church Street in Burlington along with local leaders say the momentum cannot stop with the conviction of Derek Chauvin.

“It’s an exciting time honestly to be alive in this moment and to see a little bit of accountability happening in our justice system,” said Steffen Gillom, the president of the Windham County, Vermont, NAACP.

Following the jury’s verdict, people we spoke with say they hope this decision leads to meaningful change in policing across the United States. Gillom says accountability is important and he is ready to see more action taken.

“I’m ready now to have the real conversation about qualified immunity, about how we can continue to protect people and about how we continue to raise our collective humanity, but also the humanity of Black and brown people in the U.S.,” Gillom said.

Rutland Area NAACP President Mia Schultz says the racial justice movement has sparked policy changes across the country and she believes this verdict can jump-start the work.

“I’m feeling a little bit of that weight of we’re in history and how are we going to make the most of this moment to do the change that is necessary and move forward,” Schultz said.

Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Law expert Jared Carter says each charge includes different elements of the crime.

“It’s very common, prosecutors if they believe they can prove the elements of different crimes will often prosecute multiple causes of action because if they’re unsuccessful on one they might be successful on another,” Carter said.

Meanwhile, people out on Church Street after the verdict echoed what leaders were saying-- change cannot stop here.

“I hope for continuous growth, really I want the country to continue to improve in the right direction,” said Drew Farris, from Exeter, New Hampshire, who was out in Burlington on Tuesday.

“There’s a sense of there being some degree of justice served. It’s nowhere near enough and that’s evident by the multiple other murders of innocent people since George Floyd’s death,” said Stephanie Tucker of Burlington.

“It just seems like it’s so hard for accountability for police officers, so we need to change the system and the way police are trained,” said Diane Fornasier of San Francisco.

Police reform efforts began in Burlington as well following the death of George Floyd. A functional assessment of the city’s police department is ongoing and a report is expected back soon.

The City Council is also working to develop an oversight body to make decisions on some police discipline.

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