In Rhode Island, public reaction to the conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd was unanimous.

From top elected officials to leaders in law enforcement, higher education and community organizers, the response to Derek Chauvin being found guilty on all counts in Floyd’s death was one of resounding support.

“Justice was served today,’’ Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said in a joint statement issued shortly after the verdict on Tuesday. 

 "While today’s verdict will never bring back George Floyd, whose life was tragically taken, it reaffirms a fundamental tenet of our country — that no one is above the law. Our thoughts are with the Floyd family and the people of Minnesota.

Despite the verdict, the statement said, there remains “a lot of work to do to put a stop to police brutality, root out systemic racism, and build a more equitable state and nation."

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), said in a statement after the guilty verdict was announced that “Today, justice was served.’’ But he went on to say that “the jury’s guilty verdict will not return George Floyd to his loving family, nor will it repair the harm done to the countless people of color who have been unfairly targeted by police.

“...Chauvin’s actions were inexcusable. While the vast majority of police officers serve their communities honorably, officers who fail in this responsibility breed suspicion and distrust among those they are sworn to ‘protect and serve.’ Chauvin, and any other member of law enforcement, must be held accountable for their behavior when they violate the public trust,’’ Langevin said.

“Justice has been served,’’ U.S. Rep. David Cicilline tweeted, adding that he hoped the verdict “brings some measure of relief” to the Floyd family. “We have a lot of work to do in changing the ways police interact with those they are sworn to protect.”

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said in a statement: “Today’s verdict is only a first step toward full justice for George Floyd.  We have much work to do to deliver on our Constitution’s promise of equal protection under law.  I hope this trial opens a path for people of good will in law enforcement and Black and Brown communities to reach agreement on lasting reform.”

In voicing support for the jury’s decision to convict, Rhode Island House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi referenced legislation aimed at police officer accountability. “Reform of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights is a priority of many members of the House,” he said. 

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement that “the criminal justice system as it presently exists needed to deliver justice for Mr. Floyd and his family. That has now happened with today’s verdict.”

Nerhonha congratulated Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team, and said he applauds their “strong work in prosecuting this ongoing case.”

Rhode Island Democratic Party Chair Joseph M. McNamara, in a statement, said of the verdict: “Today, there was justice for George Floyd, and for every Black person who has suffered at the hands of a rogue police officer."

"You know, this is the best result possible and by no means am I upset,” said  Harrison Tuttle, executive director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC.  “But I also recognize that we really need to change the way that we think about our American justice system and policing itself so black people don't die to begin with."

The Providence Police Department announced earlier on Tuesday that all existing officers will receive training on de-escalation, and implicit bias by the end of the year. Officials said the training would also be incorporated into the standard curriculum for new recruits.

But Tuttle said he doesn't think more police training is the answer. Instead, he supports reallocating resources to help improve the socioeconomic conditions that often lead to crime.



"Justice was served this afternoon in a Minneapolis courtroom when a jury rightly convicted Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd nearly a year ago,” Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association Executive Director Sid Wordell and President Richard Ramsey said in a joint statement. 

"Our thoughts are with the Floyd family. The verdict is a sign that there is accountability for those who take the life of another, and an affirmation that Black Lives Matter.

"On behalf of every police chief in Rhode Island, we wish to reiterate that we stand with Black Americans today and every day,’’ the statement from Wordell and Ramsey said. “Every decent man and woman who wears a badge is committed to doing the essential work of ensuring equity in policing and confronting systemic racism that has plagued our nation for too long." 

Across the border in southeastern Massachusetts, reactions were similar.

New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro said on Tuesday, “I have complete confidence in the judicial system and that the jury, who heard all the evidence, arrived at the correct verdict and justice has been met.” 

Cordeiro said he is “not sure [the verdict] changes a whole lot because our officers operate within the parameters of the law every day, and apply a community policing philosophy to treat people equitably and with respect and civility”

But local activists and civil rights leaders say more work is needed to end police misconduct. 

“I think this verdict has significance in that it sends a message, and the message could be that bad actors, in the law enforcement field, will be held accountable. I say a message, because we don’t have a law, said  LaSella Hall, president of the New Bedford NAACP

He urged Massachusetts lawmakers to revisit police reform legislation in the wake of Chauvin’s conviction.

ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose said, “While this verdict brings rare accountability for police, achieving this outcome for George Floyd is only one step in addressing police abuse of power, disparate treatment, and excessive force against Black and Brown communities.” 

Rose said that police violence will not end “until we end policing as usual.”

 --with reports by Ben Berke and Joe Tasca