Rochester leaders reflect on George Floyd killing one year after his death |

Rochester leaders reflect on George Floyd killing one year after his death

George Floyd Photo: NBC News Channel. George Floyd

Raven Brown
Updated: May 25, 2021 06:43 PM
Created: May 25, 2021 06:22 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Following the murder of George Floyd, there were demonstrations held here in Rochester and calls for change in our community.

Rev. Myra Brown from Spiritus Christi Church says last month’s conviction of Derek Chauvin was a step in the right direction but there is so much more that needs to be done here in our community, starting with policing.

“George Floyd's very public death really affirmed for people of color the stories that they have been telling about the policing system that people thought were unbelievable that was an over-exaggeration,” Brown said. 

Brown said there needs to be a completely new police blueprint with input from community members.

“Have we seen enough? Probably not. I think I’ve seen the Governor called for reform as many governors did across the country but really what we needed was structural change,” Brown said. “We really didn't need reform. Reform in some way kind of nibbles around the edges."

ROC Freedom Riders co-founder Rashad Smith said Floyd’s murder not only sparked change in policing but systemic racism everywhere including the workplace.

“Awareness is at an all-time high but really now it's time for accountability and I’m talking about entities throughout the country spending 365 days at this point making statements about how they are creating more equitable workplaces but now it’s time for communities to see specific examples of how that work is being accomplished,” Smith said.

Smith said some of those examples include a handful of things.

“So what does that look like in terms of your hiring practices? How are you shaping your job descriptions to be more equitable, what do your boards look like, what are you doing to recruit more BIPOC people to be a part of those boards?” Smith said.

Brown said after a long emotional year from she is encouraged by the coming together of ordinary people to fight injustice, but says it doesn't end here. 

“People came together there was this great coming together kind of an 'ah-ha' moment like you know, we are in this together so what I hope for the future is that we keep reclaiming that place and we won't let the systems of justice divide us,” Brown said. 

Floyd’s death also prompted police reform in departments across New York State.

“What happened in Minnesota, we all looked out ourselves and said 'Who trained that?' Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode said. 

He said it was an eye-opener for all police departments.

“It really made you wake up as a police chief over here to say, 'Boy we got some real training issues around the country if this is how the police are handling something,'” VanBrederode said.

He said the training police used in Floyd’s case, is not what they do here. 

“We never taught chokeholds, that was never part of our program and I understand that is taught in some areas,” VanBrederode said. “That whole maneuver of a chokehold that was something we never taught or approved.”

Following Floyd’s murder, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order saying all police departments need to submit a police reform plan by April.

VanBrederode said many things submitted they've already been doing like cultural diversity training and some de-escalation training but said some meaningful training they want to get done will be tough.

“What’s frustrating is that there is deep systemic changes that we need that need support of lawmakers that give us the ability to fire people, hire people,” VanBrederode said. “Those are the ones. The tough ones typical caught up in legislative processes and here we are a year later this is where it always gets backed up and when it comes time to change something that hasn't been changed in 30 or 40 years like the civil service law and now to get somebody to change it to reflect policing in 2021 is where it gets frustrating.”

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