In Minneapolis, George Floyd, 46, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for an extended period of time during an arrest on May 25. The four Minneapolis officers involved have since been fired. The case has gained national attention.
Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza addressed the situation through a Facebook post on the department’s page this morning. It is included here in its entirety:
When Emotions Run Justifiably High
While watching the protests in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Louisville, Phoenix, Denver, Columbus, and St. Louis last evening, I couldn’t help but feel numerous emotions; that of raw grief for the family and friends of George Floyd, sadness for beautiful cities in severe distress, anger regarding poor examples of policing in the profession I love, frustration surrounding the looting and burning which further victimizes and divides, and that of grave concern over the extreme conflict between our communities and the officers who serve those communities regarding what the future holds. These emotions are not based on the color of my skin or the profession I have chosen; this should anger, sadden, frustrate, concern, and scare everyone!
I have noticed over my 23 years in law enforcement, chiefs of police are often publicly silent when something of this magnitude earns national news, but when nouns such as anarchy and chaos are being used by reporters when describing the streets of Minneapolis, it is difficult to remain silent. During these times it is prudent for the integrity of the investigation to be maintained, simultaneously attempting to preserve the integrity of the profession. That said I am sharing some thoughts surrounding the death of George Floyd and others throughout the country by apparent negligence and disregard for a human life by a small faction of community guardians. In short, I agree with you, what happened was not ok, not in the least, and I will not defend the officers’ actions or inactions.
To answer an initial question, until all evidence is examined, it is difficult to know exactly what occurred E 38th St and Chicago Ave without having been there. With the video provided, along with the victim and witness recordings, comments, and statements, along with the numerous pleas for help by Mr. Floyd and other onlookers, it becomes easier to formulate a more validated opinion without having been there…that being egregious acts were seemingly committed by officers involved which led to the senseless death of Mr. Floyd.
So what went wrong? Officers often respond in multiples when an incident occurs regarding an arrest. In the case of George Floyd, a minimum of four officers were present. Very valid questions exist which include where was the peer intervention? Non-existent. Where was the peer accountability? Absent. Where was the necessary evaluation of an individual in custody, begging for help and claiming a medical emergency? Null and void. Where did the officer learn the deadly technique of kneeling on an individual’s neck? Nowhere. I commend the Chief of Minneapolis for prompt action regarding the employment of the officers involved based on the information he had, but that is said based on the officers’ actions and failure to take action and intervene to prevent this tragedy.
One may also ask, should the officer who was kneeling on George Floyd have been immediately arrested? Maybe…again not all of the evidence was collected, is publically known, nor has been released. If after a prompt yet thorough investigation it is believed the officer(s) have committed murder, then they must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law by being arrested for a homicide. If, after examination it was determined to be racially driven, that must be made publicly known as well and the need for organizational reform is essential. We look for and identify root causes of deadly event,m, then work towards their immediate fix. This could equate to better screening of applicants upon hire, higher levels of supervision and accountability throughout ones career, additional training, public education, the building of stronger community relations, or instituting collaborative reform.
What I ask from our community and Facebook followers, while we all mourn George Floyd and Minneapolis as a whole, and as we all look for answers…is to not jump to conclusions like many do when faced with opinions and video snippets but rather wait until the investigation is completed or at the least, both sides of the story are shared. Law enforcement administrators often error by not getting the facts out soon enough with the rationale being to maintain the integrity of the investigation, while overlooking the damage this causes to public trust. I ask all, before you garner your opinion, educate yourself on the facts, be patient while they surface, and don’t lose faith in those willing to lay their lives on the line for you as we speak. We love you, we love our communities, and we are sorry this happened. We are here for you, with a true desire to be trusted by you, ready to listen to you while learning from you…all while we experience these emotional extremes together.
Police Chief – Marshfield Police Department