Chauvin's Sentence Is in Line With Rare Time Cops Get Convicted

A judge’s 22.5 year sentence on Friday for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, isn’t entirely unprecedented — but remains incredibly rare. 

In the last 15 years, a total of 11 officers have been convicted in the U.S. of murder for crimes committed while on-duty, according to an analysis by Bowling Green State University professor Philip Stinson. On average, those men received nearly 22 years of jail time, though sentences ranged from just under 7 years to life imprisonment.  

Over 1,000 people have been killed by on-duty cops each year since 2013, an annual rate that has held steady, according to Mapping Police Violence, which tracks nationwide police killings.

Chauvin's Sentence Is in Line With Rare Time Cops Get Convicted

Over the same period, eight officers have been convicted of murder, Stinson’s analysis shows. “In most of these cases where there’s use of deadly force the officer is exonerated,” Stinson said.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Attorney Ben Crump,  who’s reached national prominence representing victims of police violence, said “today represents an opportunity to be a turning point in America. This is the longest sentence that a police officer has been sentenced to in the history of the state of Minnesota.”

President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that the sentence “seems to be appropriate.”

The charges Chauvin was convicted on carry a recommended sentence of between 10 years and 15 years, but his abuse of his position as an officer and the cruelty of his actions led to the upward revision, according to Judge Peter Cahill's sentencing order.

A group of bipartisan senators are currently negotiating legislation that would overhaul policing practices in the U.S. A current sticking point
is how to create greater accountability for police officers who engage in excessive force. 

Still, Stinson said that Chauvin’s sentencing won’t likely usher in a new era of police accountability. The Chauvin case exploded, in part, because of the horrific bystander video, which remain uncommon, Stinson said.

More often, police killings aren’t treated as crimes. Evidence doesn’t get collected from the scene and prosecutors rely heavily on officer accounts of an incident, Stinson said. 

“Their on duty violent actions just aren't treated as criminal,” he said. “The real changes have to be around the culture of policing.” 

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