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Councilmember Jenkins On Derek Chauvin's Sentencing And How Her Ward Is Responding

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has received his sentence, read here by Judge Peter Cahill.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER CAHILL: Now, sentence for count one - the court commits you to the custody of the Commission of Corrections for a period of 270 months. That's 2-7-0.

CHANG: Chauvin's sentence of 270 months works out to 22 1/2 years. That's 10 years beyond the minimum required by sentencing guidelines and short of the 30 years the prosecution had originally requested. And under Minnesota law, Chauvin could be considered for parole after serving two-thirds of that time. Andrea Jenkins is vice president of the Minneapolis City Council. She represents Ward 8, where George Floyd was killed. Andrea Jenkins joins us now. Welcome.

ANDREA JENKINS: Thank you.

CHANG: So how satisfied are you with the sentence of 22 1/2 years for Derek Chauvin?

JENKINS: Right. Well, you know, first of all, I do want to just acknowledge and offer my condolences to the Floyd family - certainly to his young daughter, Gianna, and really just thank Darnella Frazier for her bravery and courage in shooting the video and standing up and testifying today. I'm sad. I'm torn. I'm disappointed, conflicted, but also determined to continue to fight for justice and fairness and equality and equity. And, you know, while the sentence wasn't everything that I think a lot of people hoped for - certainly the Floyd family - I do think it was - it is substantial. I mean, 22 1/2 years in penitentiary is certainly a substantial sentence for anybody to reflect and to - you know, to pay for their transgressions.

CHANG: May I ask, had you been hoping, personally, for the maximum sentence of 30 years?

JENKINS: I - you know, I was hoping for a fair and just sentence, and I think a 30-year sentence would have been appropriate for the level of inhumanity that was shown in that nine minute and 48 second video that the world watched.

CHANG: Have you been in touch with George Floyd's family today after the sentencing was announced? Can - and if you have, can you tell us anything about how they're feeling right now?

JENKINS: Well, I have not had an opportunity to speak with them previously to the sentence today, but I do anticipate seeing them shortly. But, you know, I think there is some relief to the closure of this sentence. I think - you know, I certainly think that the prosecutor, Attorney General Ellison, had prepared the family for a range of possibilities. And so while I know that they are disappointed in the sentence, in that it did not reach the maximum, but it certainly is beyond what some may call a slap on the wrist or a, you know, probation or a 10-year sentence, which was the minimum that could have been offered. And this sentence goes well beyond that.

CHANG: Well, Minnesota Public Radio noted today that Chauvin is the first white officer in Minnesota to face prison time for the killing of a Black man. I'm wondering, does his conviction and sentencing of 22 1/2 years feel like a unique exception to you when it comes to cases of police violence? Or does it feel more like the beginning of a possible new path here? What do you think?

JENKINS: I am optimistic. You know, I run for public office because I am optimistic that we can change and we can shift and we can grow and transform our communities. So I have to take this as a positive step in the right direction. I will be continuing to call for equity and justice, and I hope that the community will continue that call that I believe led to this conviction and to this sentence to this day. You know, the other officer that has been convicted of murder in Minneapolis was a African - well, African who lives in America, so certainly an African American - but Somali-born police officer who received a sentence of 12 years. And the circumstances were very different, but, you know, it is a positive step, I think, in the right direction.

CHANG: Well, I do hear the hope in your voice. But we should note that the Minneapolis Police Department is at a bit of a crossroads right now, obviously. The Department of Justice is investigating it at the moment. More than a hundred officers have left the force in just the last year. In your mind, where does the Minneapolis Police Department go from here? Like, how do they gain the confidence of this community?

JENKINS: Great question. You know, I will only add to your initial statement that we're also being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and we are down about 200 officers, a little bit more than 200 officers. So we are at a crossroads, and we are at a place in this community where distrust and mistrust is at an all-time low. I think that we have to, as lawmakers and policymakers, really continue to push for equity and justice.

We really need the the George Floyd Policing Act to pass in Congress because if that happens, then we can get at some of the systemic issues that are plaguing the Minneapolis Police Department, the Boston Police Department, the New York City Police Department, the LAPD and just all over the country. We must have some federal regulations to help us improve policing in America. We have to transform policing in ways that really meet the needs of the community today. And right now we're working with an 18th century model, and we're in the 21st century. And so we have to reimagine and transform public safety. And I think, you know, taking some of the responsibilities from police, like mental health responses, traffic - minor traffic stops, those kinds of things, will begin to help improve community relations moving forward.

CHANG: Andrea Jenkins is vice president of the Minneapolis City Council. Thank you very much for joining us today.

JENKINS: Thank you for having me.

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

Corrected: June 26, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
In this interview, a question mistakenly refers to the maximum possible sentence for Chauvin as having been 30 years. In fact, the maximum sentence allowed by law would have been 40 years. The prosecution asked for 30.
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