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It took less than a full day for the jury to reach a verdict for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd. USA TODAY

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New Jersey political leaders on Tuesday welcomed a jury's guilty verdicts in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, saying that work to end systemic racism and police violence against people of color must continue.

“Accountability for the officer who murdered George Floyd is important and it is necessary," Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement.

"But it is far from enough. We must also hold the system that allowed it to happen accountable. What are we going to do as a country to prevent this from happening again and again and again and again? 

“We must change this system that is killing us. We must change the complacency that allows it to persist. We must change our laws."

Booker co-authored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping reform and police accountability bill that passed the U.S. House last month but faces an uphill battle in the closely divided Senate.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said "justice has prevailed in this case" but that Floyd's murder was a reminder "that inequality has deep roots in American history, starting during slavery and continuing to the present day in areas such as wages, health care, housing, education, and treatment by law enforcement." 

"This has been a trying moment in our nation’s history, but we must be resolute in our fight for justice to ensure that the pain of yesterday, and the pain of today, does not become the pain of tomorrow," Murphy said in a statement.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died last Memorial Day after he was pinned to the ground under the knee of a white police officer for over nine minutes.

Video of the encounter went viral, setting off protests over police brutality and demands for reform across the country.

Jurors found the officer, 45-year-old Derek Chauvin, guilty of three counts, including second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, on Tuesday.

New Jersey's law enforcement leadership was monitoring whether the verdicts would reignite protests and rallies across the Garden State.

"Like last summer, we just want to be prepared," New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said in a Monday briefing on the coronavirus. "And we saw a lot of mass gatherings, very peaceful ones, and we hope that that remains true."

In the months since the killing, New Jersey lawmakers passed bills that had lingered for over six years requiring and funding body-worn cameras for all patrol officers in the Garden State, required implicit bias training and approved other accountability measures.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal limited use of police chokeholds, revamped the state's policy on use of force and earlier this month made some police use-of-force records available online.

Still, there has been criticism that the Murphy administration and lawmakers acted slowly or failed to address more substantive reforms

Late Tuesday, the resounding message from policymakers was that their work is not yet done.

"A flawed system laid the groundwork for the death of George Floyd," Grewal said in a statement. "It’s a system that too often fails to recruit police from the communities they guard, fails to train officers properly, fails to place just limits on the use of force against citizens, and fails to create mechanisms for the independent investigation of misconduct.

"It’s a system that badly needs reform — here and across the country."

Stacey Barchenger is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to her work covering New Jersey’s policymakers and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: sbarchenger@gannettnj.com 

Twitter: @sbarchenger 

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