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Previous story George Floyd's killing started a movement. 9 months later, what's changed? Next story

STORY BY NOLAN D. MCCASKILL

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Published on March 3, 2021 1:46 AM

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A young boy walks past a mural depicting George Floyd in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles on June 9, 2020. | AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
George Floyd didn't live to see Kamala Harris become vice president. Nor was he alive to see an investigation into Breonna Taylor's death find that her killer's gunfire was justified.

But his legacy will determine which America his daughter, Gianna — and the next generation of young Americans — will grow up in: the nation in which a record number of voters can elect a Black woman into the White House. Or the country in which Taylor's killer isn't going to trial, but the officer who shot her neighbors' wall is.

After a summer of protests, the coming weeks will show how much has really changed since Floyd's death — in Washington, D.C., the judicial system, and America itself. Next week, jury selection commences for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed pinning his knee into Floyd's neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds.

And in Congress this week, Democrats are trying once again to shape Floyd's legacy by advancing federal legislation to reform policing. The House is expected to vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — again. The bill passed the chamber last summer but was never taken up by the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

"In light of what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, now is the time to get this bill passed and on President Biden's desk," said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The bill would ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement and mandate data collection on police encounters. Civil rights leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton are pushing for its passage. But centrist Democrats have their concerns about some provisions of the bill. And it's not clear how it'll fare in the Senate.

Which means it'll be up to cities and states to overhaul the nation's beleaguered criminal justice system. But so far, results are mixed.

In the wake of Floyd's death in May, 25 states enacted new policing laws. But even so, some of those new laws have little to do with improved policing or increased accountability. Instead, they focus on lessening bureaucratic hurdles such as easing residency requirements.

Other laws prohibit chokeholds, update training standards and require officers to have body-worn cameras. Other notable policies include laws that increase penalties for falsely summoning officers or making false reports. Whether those reforms represent real change depends on whom you ask.

"If "reimagining policing' is a phrase, if "defund the police' is a phrase, if "abolish the police' is a phrase, how do we move from essentially a hashtag to budget-specific, legislative-specific, regulatory-specific, community-specific solutions in real time?" said Cornell William Brooks, professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice at Harvard University and a former NAACP president.

"It's one thing to call for a whole-scale transformation," said Brooks who is working with a team of students to help mayors reimagine what policing looks like in terms of budgets, legislation, regulation and police culture.

But it's just as necessary, Brooks said, "to figure out, "What does that mean at a granular level?'"