The death this week of a Minnesota man at the hands of police moved Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead to express his strong views on social media, calling the actions “not defensible.”
The death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd was prone and handcuffed, sparked riots and looting in several cities as people protested in outrage.
Broadhead said he was “sick to my stomach” from watching the widely-viewed video of four Minneapolis officers detaining Floyd over suspicion of an alleged fake $20 bill. The video clearly shows one officer kneeling with weight on one knee placed over Floyd’s neck, plainly ignoring Floyd’s audible pleas for relief, saying “I can’t breathe.”
Fired Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case. He and the other three officers were fired after the incident.
As a long-time law enforcement officer, Broadhead said he is appalled by the Minneapolis officers’ behavior.
In a post Thursday on the Statesboro Police Department Facebook page, he said “The actions of the officers in Minneapolis are not defensible. The officers and staff of the Statesboro Police Department share the disgust that many of you have after watching the callous and indifferent attitude of those officers as a man pleaded for help.”
Supporting law enforcement officers is important, but not when they behave shamefully, he said, adding that the video leaves no question that the officers are horribly and tragically in the wrong.
“There are many of you in our community who are big supporters of the police and may have conflicted feelings about how to react to this video. In many instances, more context is needed in order to effectively judge police conduct shown on video... but this is not one of those instances.”
The officers should have known better, and should have been better trained, he said.
“There is a phenomenon known as ‘positional asphyxia’ which law enforcement has been aware of for at least the past couple of decades,” he said “If these officers are unaware of the dangers of positional asphyxia then shame on them and shame on their department.”
Most law enforcement officers are good people who do not condone such brutality, he said.
“Police misconduct cannot be tolerated. I am firmly convinced that good police officers need to stand up and point out police misconduct. When people call for help, we help. When the police act badly, we should admit it and eliminate it.”
Like Broadhead, police chiefs and law enforcement officers across the nation expressed dismay and disgust with the conduct of the Minneapolis officers leading to Floyd’s death.
“There is no need to see more video,” Chattanooga, Tennessee, Police Chief David Roddy tweeted Wednesday. “There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out’. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”
“Not going hide behind ‘not being there,’" tweeted San Jose Police, California, Chief Eddie Garcia. "I’d be one of the first to condemn anyone had I seen similar happen to one of my brother/ sister officers. What I saw happen to George Floyd disturbed me and is not consistent with the goal of our mission. The act of one, impacts us all.”
Such deplorable behavior would never be tolerated here, Broadhead told the Statesboro Herald.
“We are doing all we can as a police department to ensure these kinds of incidents don't happen in Statesboro. We hire the best officers we can, we provide them effective supervision, and we dedicate large amounts of time and resources to effective on-going training.
“We stand with our community against violence, regardless of the perpetrator,” Broadhead said. “When you call for help, we are here to help. This is not a political issue. This is not a police versus community issue. This is a simple matter of right and wrong. We are here to do right.”
The Statesboro Herald reached out to Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown several times Thursday and Friday, seeking comments on his view of Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement. However, phone calls and messages were not returned.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.