By Cady Inabinett
On April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges he faced for the death of George Floyd—a Black man who was killed while being arrested by Chauvin and three other Minneapolis police officers in May 2020.
The university hosted an open discussion on April 20 regarding the verdict from the Chauvin trial.
The discussion, which was moderated by the University’s Diversity Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, Jason Perry, as well as the University’s Chief of Police, Tim Alexander, aimed to, “give students an opportunity to engage in open, honest dialogue regarding the current climate in our nation.”
University President, Dr. John Stewart, opened the discussion by acknowledging “just how very anxious” some students have been about the verdict of the trial. Stewart went on to say that he was, “happy and relieved that justice was done in this case.”
Alexander addressed the group before the discussion began.
He spoke on his role and perspective as a police officer, saying, “We in law enforcement feel some type of way about this because this is not what we want to portray,” and that he believed that the outcome of the trial was, “a small victory.”
He went on to say that he wanted to participate in this conversation because he wanted to, “engage on any platform I can to show that we are here to serve you.”
Perry opened the discussion by asking the students in attendance to describe how they have been feeling over the past year and while awaiting the verdict of Chauvin’s trial. Many students described themselves as “numb” or “restless,” while others said they have felt “hopeful.”
Perry then shifted the conversation onto how to deal with these emotions. Director of Counseling Services Josh Miller suggested that students should view their feelings as, “real and legitimate,” and encouraged students to reach out and discuss their feelings with someone they trust.
Perry went on to encourage students to, “develop systems of care,” saying, “we don’t want you to continue to carry those emotions.”
Alexander discussed the conflict he’s felt as Black man and a police officer. He shared a story of his 12-year-old daughter being upset by the Chauvin trial and asking him to quit his job because of police brutality towards Black people.
He went on to say that he believes he has the power to provide positive change to the system through his role as an officer, saying, “I chose to be a part of the solution.”
One student asked Alexander how police officers with prior records of brutality, such as Chauvin, are able to continue to work in law enforcement.
Alexander pointed out that, when a police officer resigns instead of being fired by a department, they are able to apply to work at other police departments. He spoke against this practice saying, “Instead of getting the bad apples out of the profession, they’re allowed to go somewhere else, which is bad.”
Alexander said Alabama now requires that applicants to pass a psychological evaluation in order to be accepted to the police academy. This only became a requirement in November 2020; prior to that, applicants were only required to have high school diploma or GED.
The conversation also addressed how the university’s counseling department is prepared to address the specific mental health need of students of color.
Miller explained that counseling services does, “over 20 hours of continuing education every year,” and have been focusing on how they can “remove barriers” for students of color. Additionally, he said that the department has been “building relationship with HBCUs with counseling programs” in order to bring interns from those programs to work at Montevallo.
Participants in the discussion noted how historically significant this trial and its outcome were. Chief Diversity Officer, Greg Samuels, reflected on watching the Rodney King trial when he was growing up, saying, “It was frustrating to see something on video with no justice.”
He went on to say that he, “thought it was fantastic,” that police officers testified during Chauvin’s trial, saying, “to have that much support and that much explanation was a beautiful thing.”