TEXAS, USA — Editor's note: Scroll to the bottom of this story to read the full statements from local police departments.
Local police departments are voicing their concerns and reiterating their commitment to community members following ongoing protests in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Hewitt Police Department Chief Jim Devlin posted a statement on his Facebook page yesterday in response to the incident. Devlin said he cannot remain quiet as as police chief when he observes "such clear wrong doing."
Devlin went on to say that in his more than 20 years of officer instruction in how to conduct arrests and defense tactics, the one used by former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin on George Floyd "is not a technique that has ever been taught." He said the technique is identified as deadly force.
Toward the end of his statement, Devlin said police officers "need to do better."
"We need to do better individually and collectively, hold each other up to a higher standard, and serve with compassion and professionalism in service to our communities," Devlin said. "As officers we need to stand up for what is right- to not discuss this issue would be a disservice and avert change."
Meanwhile, Waco Police Department Acting Chief Frank Gentsch said the department is aware of events around the country and uses this and other events to learn how to improve relations with the community.
"Our department is continually in communication with our community leaders across Waco to see how we can serve our citizens better as a department and we thank those community leaders for being willing to communicate with us," he said.
He also said that the tactics used in the viral video are not ones that Waco officers.
"Our officers have been trained to assess a handcuffed person’s well-being after they have been taken into custody and as part of that to maintain proper respiratory function to prevent them from going into positional asphyxiation," Gentsch said in the statement.
Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble spoke with 6 News over the phone.
Chief Kimble said the first word that came to his mind watching the video was disgusting, after seeing someone wearing the same badge as he does, participate in such a vile act.
Chief Kimble said KPD officers have use of force training, where they only use the force necessary to make an arrest. Also, de-escalation training to try to avoid force all together. Chief Kimble said if there is a use of force, an investigation is launched.
Chief Kimble talked about transparency with the department and making sure there is open communication with the public.
"If you don't value life as a police officer you're in the wrong profession," Chief Kimble said.
Local businesses are also responding to protests and unrest around the nation in their own way. Fabled Book Shop and Cafe in Waco put up a display of various books on race and identity. In an Instagram post, the business said reading a book "could be the start" to an answer.
"In humility and hope, we have selected a few of the many titles we carry that champion empathy, that they would be a small part in the greater narrative of change to come," the bookstore said in the post.
Here's the full statement from Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin:
I have struggled with this issue for the past couple of days, not about the content of what I am writing, but keeping my collective calm after viewing this disturbing video.
George Floyd - I can't sideline this one. I can't hold a leadership position in a police organization and remain silent when I observe such clear wrong doing. It is my place as a leader - and it’s incumbent upon all officers - that we taken action and speak up when this type of behavior is observed. If we don’t then we are completely missing our purpose and not adequately serving our communities.
I have instructed officers for over 20 years in mechanics of arrest and defensive tactics- this is not a technique that has ever been taught- we actually identify it as deadly force. This is a punitive action that has no place in this profession. We are here to protect and uphold everyone’s rights even if they have broken the law and use only the force necessary to take control. There was a complete lack of mental preparedness for this call and there wasn’t a single display of human empathy on the part of these officers- even when it was obvious what was happening. The actions of these officers are unacceptable and should be condemned.
We need to do better individually and collectively, hold each other up to a higher standard, and serve with compassion and professionalism in service to our communities. As officers we need to stand up for what is right- to not discuss this issue would be a disservice and avert change.
Here is the statement from Waco Police Department Acting Chief Frank Gentsch:
Waco Police Department is aware of the current situations that are taking place around the country and in other states. We want our community to know that we as a department are always evaluating situations and circumstances that occur around the nation and within our own department on how we can better our officers and how we can better serve our community.
We also continually assess how we train our officers in use of force situations as well as de-escalation tactics. The techniques used in the recent use of force video nationwide are not techniques that our officers have been trained to use. Our officers have been trained to assess a handcuffed person’s well-being after they have been taken into custody and as part of that to maintain proper respiratory function to prevent them from going into positional asphyxiation.
Our department is continually in communication with our community leaders across Waco to see how we can serve our citizens better as a department and we thank those community leaders for being willing to communicate with us. We are also thankful for the continued support that we receive from citizens on a daily basis.
Local publisher, poet and activist Christopher Michael addressed Floyd's death:
"It seems like there is always a video of a person of color, particularly black men being killed by people of authority and just when I thought I was getting desensitized to all the killings, I saw this video and it just brought me back to the last four or five years of pain that we have been going through," Michael said.
Michael had a message for police, "No matter who you're dealing with you are in a position of authority and a position of power and you have the training to deal with situations and de-escalate,"
When it comes to Floyd's death Michael understands what people are feeling.
"What I say to the people, I understand your pain, your fear and your desire to tear the world up and burn everything down. The question is, is that getting us anywhere?," Michael said.
More on protests, reactions to George Floyd's death:
- Hundreds join 'Justice for George' march and rally in downtown Houston
- Cleveland first responders react to the death of George Floyd and actions of police officers
- Colin Kaepernick to help provide legal assistance to Minneapolis protesters
- Minneapolis, St. Paul impose curfews after week of overnight riots