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Can Chauvin Guilty Verdict in Floyd Killing Impact Police Reform Efforts in Syracuse?

Chris Bolt/WAER News

Syracuse Groups that have protested ever since George Floyd was murdered turned out again Tuesday night for a gathering after the guilty verdict of the police officer who killed him.  Reactions to the verdict were swift to follow, some speculating what it might do for police reform.

Members of Groups such as Rebirth Syracuse, Last Chance for Change, the Syracuse Police Accountability and Reform Coalition (SPAARC) and others gathered in front of the public safety building after hearing Police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty. 

Community activist Yusuf Abdul Qadir, formerly with the NYCLU, worked for years on police reform in Syracuse and puts the magnitude of the verdict in perspective.

“I don’t want to say there was justice, because there will never be justice for George Floyd.  He will never be able to celebrate being in his family’s arms, never be able to spend time with his loved ones.  But at least there was a sense that an officer, and I want to be clear to say ‘an officer’, has been held accountable for the killing of an unarmed black person in this country.”

Last Chance for Change held marches for 40 days in the city after the George Floyd Killing…organizer Curtis Chaplin gives it yet more significance.

I think it’s a major turning point; this isn’t something minor.  Not only did we have a lot of protests going on, we had a lot of police brutality going on.  The whole world was on the edge of their seats based on the verdict.  The fact that officers were able to look past that blue line, that blue code to (testify) against another officer shows that there are some good officers out there.  So, I think that will set the bar for what’s to be expected.”

In addition to the conduct of police at a trial, Chaplin would also like to see the verdict enhance the momentum for change.

“I hope, I hope that it has an impact on police reform in this community and every other community.  This was something very major that everyone was able to see publicly thanks to social media and technology.”

He wonders if the verdict would have been what it was without the emotionally moving video, mostly from bystanders’ phones. 

Qadir points out that a key element of the case focuses on an ongoing problem with police policies.

“What was on trial was the question of reasonableness and if you look at Syracuse’s use of force policy, there’s a tremendous amount of (area) in which a reasonable officer can use force.  So, maybe not in the excessive way we saw in Mr. Chauvin (but) … It’s important to note that policies still exist in Syracuse and elsewhere that afford these things to still happen.” 


Last year, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh laid out a 16-point plan for reform of the Syracuse Police Department.  It addresses reforming use-of-force policies, deescalation and accountabilty measures.  The city also comlied with a state law to release a police reform and reinvention plan.  Some elements of these plans have been adopted, such as Right-to-Know law and increased use of body cameras by police.  

Other reactions to the verdict included Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud, who says in a release that no verdict can take away the pain and suffering felt across the country from the killing of Floyd. 

“No verdict solves the underlying problems that racism inflicts on Black Americans every day. There is much work to be done in our country. There is work to be done here at Syracuse University. Our campus must be a place where all individuals feel safe, supported and empowered. Let’s commit to actions that change our community and our society for the better.”

Meanwhile Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick told, the trial changes the narrative around policing in the country.  He adds Chauvin would not likely have been convicted in decades past.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.