PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — One year ago, George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. His death catapulted the nation into conversations on social and racial injustice.
Protests, chants, and police sirens became recurring sounds during the summer of 2020.
“A year ago, things were tough,” Ricky Aiken said.
Aiken is the founder of Inner-City Innovators, a program started in the north end of West Palm Beach that is now expanding throughout Palm Beach County.
“I teach them to be responsible for themselves, responsible for the people they associate themselves with, and responsible for making sure they don’t remain trapped in the community that has trapped so many before them,” Aiken said.
Last year, he and his group members known locally as the “Hope Dealers” shared with WPTV reporter Sabirah Rayford their overwhelming obstacles.
During the interview, all the men said in the past they have had some sort of negative interaction with police and had seen violence up close.
Aiken said that one year after the murder of George Floyd, he is still seeing a difference in how people talk about policing in America.
“Yeah, yeah, we see the reverberating effects of that, the conversations, the outrage it’s still going on to this day,” Aiken said.
High school student Javen Bennett wants more.
“You can speak about something, but your actions are what really matter,” Bennett said.
In Delray Beach, Police Chief Javaro Sims said the work is never done. He said they are teaching their officers to concentrate on community.
“I think the biggest difference now is awareness,” Chief Sims said. “Being aware and conscious of your surroundings and how you deal and treat people as a whole, maintaining that professionalism.”
Sims said that after watching former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd, he took another look at their policies.
“One of the most important policies we put into place was our officer intervention policy,” Sims said. “Officers mandated to intervene under certain circumstances, or they will be held as accountable as the officer that’s engaging in the act.”
In Boynton Beach, Chief Michael Gregory said they’ve banned chokeholds and strangle holds, unless it’s a deadly situation where an officer would use their firearm.
“As an individual, as a Black man in society to see something like that play out live on television, it was just unbelievable,” Chief Gregory said.
Gregory said accountability and transparency are top priorities.
“Social justice situations, traffics stops, search and seizure incidents, our community wants to know what the law is and how we implement it in this city,” Gregory said.
Aiken sees hope. He’s expanding his "Hope Dealer" program to include young ladies.
“I found some like-minded women Mavis and Delilah who have joined me to lead that charge,” Aiken said. “We are going to bring a lot of hope to our community through our lady hope dealer program.”
Still, Bennett has his concerns.
“Yeah, I’m leading for my community and stuff, but I’m going to still be me, still listen to the same music still walk how I walk and still talk how I talk,” Bennett said.
Knowing he can’t change the channel of perception.
“You never know what type of person who is under that uniform, so you don’t know if they might take offense to how I approach them or not,” Bennett said.
Aiken, Bennett, and Nay Telyfe said they are committed to changing the outcome.
“When it’s all said and done, we are right here at a crossroads,” Telyfe said. “We are at a fork in the road. So, what’s the next step.”
WPTV reached out to the West Palm Beach Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and they both declined to be interviewed for this story.