HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Protests continue calling for justice for George Floyd, the man who died in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week as witness video showed officers kneeling on the man's neck.
While this incident happened in Minneapolis, it has had an effect on law enforcement all over the country, including here in Hampton Roads. As a result, a number of leaders of our local law enforcement departments have issued statements addressing the tragic situation.
Here are some of the reactions:
The Chief of Police for the Chesapeake Police Department, K. L. Wright, sent out a release on Friday, May 29, encouraging his fellow officers to not grow weary of doing the right thing.
As law enforcement officers, we work diligently to protect the community. We have been appointed to perform tasks that are not entrusted to any other governmental entity nor members of society. With this brings great responsibility and requires trust from the people who believe we are acting in their best interest and in accordance with the law. Furthermore, our actions should be tempered with compassion, guided by justice, and proportional to the prevailing conditions.
What we witnessed in the horrible video that captures the death of Mr. George Floyd runs counter to all that we in law enforcement stand for. More than that, it offends us to our core as human beings who hold all life as precious. I am profoundly dismayed that in 2020, such an event can occur. We as law enforcement, working in conjunction with the people of the communities we serve, strive day by day to improve the manner in which we Interact with one another.
Forging relationships built upon trust, civic engagement. open dialogue; all with the ultimate goal to facilitate change. Change is needed in the way we have traditionally provided police services and more importantly, how we have policed and engaged disenfranchised and minority communities.
Although much progress has been made, much more work remains to be done, We must continue to be accessible, reliable and committed to delivering the best possible services. I marvel at the work that each of you do and commend you for your commitment to the way in which we do policing in Chesapeake. Clearly, the actions of the police officers In Minneapolis did not serve Mr. Floyd nor the community at all. I am encouraged that all of the conversations I have had with some of you recognize that what occurred was in the simplest tenets "wrong." Let's be honest. years ago, police officers would not dare publicly criticize the actions of other police officers no matter how egregious. As I have always taught, "remaining silent to wrongdoing makes us accomplices and calls into question where our loyalties lie."
You all have shown fidelity to the law and to justice. As a law enforcement agency, you all embody the principles of President Obama's 21st Century Policing report. Let us continue in good works. Let us not be deterred, but increase our efforts to be better today than we were yesterday. Let us continue establishing meaningful relationships with citizens and making life better for others. And always, let us stand up for what is right. Finally, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
In a YouTube video, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said his heart goes out to Floyd's family and friends. He also apologized for the "tragic incident and the death that occurred there." Drew also said he saw the "quick and swift" actions of Minneapolis' police chief and the officers who are trying to keep order and maintain peace as protests continue.
Drew said in the profession of law enforcement, officers are sworn to protect the citizens they represent. He said what happened not only affects the City of Minneapolis and other cities across the country; it also "sends a rippling effect across this profession" and "makes us all take a step back at our training, our culture and what we do."
The chief addressed Newport News Police Department staff through a video message Wednesday, and said he will meet with the department's new recruits to talk to them about what they've seen and heard and to understand how they're feeling in an open conversation.
Drew said he felt it was necessary to send a message to the community, and added that the department is "committed to work, respect and treat the citizens of the city the same regardless of race, status, your ZIP code or address."
He added that "community policing matters" and that he is committed to move the agency forward, including commitment in accountability, training and making sure there is open discussion with citizens.
Drew mentioned that Newport News Mayor McKinley Price also issued a statement on the situation Thursday and that they have "long conversations about community interactions in our city and our organization," adding that "it is vital to what we do."
He says he wants to reassure citizens that the department does have measures in place, an internal affairs division, "strong leadership" and different divisions within the organization to make sure they're doing the right thing. He added that while he hopes the city never experiences a situation such as what is going on in Minneapolis, he does "know that those things happen. We've seen them through the years. We have to continue to strive to do better."
Drew said he appreciates the support the department has gotten from the community due to the understanding that although this incident happened across the country, it affects the law enforcement profession as a whole and affects all U.S. citizens.
"I appreciate the support you give us. My commitment to you and the organization is to continue to strive to do better and protect and serve the citizens of this community and this city. And at the end of the day, we are all held accountable," Drew ended.
Interim Police Chief Tony Zucaro issued the following statement to the Virginia Beach Police Department and the Hampton Roads community via Facebook.
As a member of this organization, you have chosen a profession that requires the uninterrupted delivery of police services, regardless of the circumstances you may face. You accomplish this task day-in and day-out with exceptional professionalism. While your dedication is worthy of praise from many including our city leadership as well as our citizenry, sometimes we must endure challenges and criticism not from our own making.
Over the weekend, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, officers responded to a report of a forgery in progress and encountered an individual, Mr. George Floyd, who they were told was involved in the matter. This is an evolving investigation and even though I do not have the full details, the portions of the encounter video I have viewed are disturbing. According to the department’s news release, Mr. Floyd was ordered from his vehicle and then physically resisted the officers. After placing him on the ground in handcuffs, it appears an officer attempted to further restrict Mr. Floyd’s movement by placing his leg/knee over Mr. Floyd’s neck – a technique forbidden by many department across the country including ours. As the officers waited for the arrival of an ambulance, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. Citizens who stood nearby and filmed the incident asked the officers to let him off the ground. Ultimately, Mr. Floyd became unresponsive and was pronounced deceased at a nearby hospital. In short order, the Mayor of Minneapolis denounced the officers’ actions and the Chief of Police terminated the employment of the four involved officers. The city and its police department are now managing the aftermath and resulting protests.
I share this story with you as an opportunity to reflect upon our training and to serve as a reminder that our actions, positive and negative, affect all who wear a similar uniform. While the incident in Minneapolis further highlights the racial sensitivities we must continue to improve upon throughout our country, the actions of those officers involved should be considered disturbing regardless of the race, gender, or ethnicity of the person who was handcuffed and being subdued on the ground. As we continue to serve our very own community, these unfortunate circumstances may be used to counter your interactions with some of our citizens. Take time to reflect upon your training, experience and fellow officer to engage the difficult with understanding and patience without sacrificing our collective safety for each other and our citizens. Always remember, our community supports our efforts.
Time and time again, I can applaud your professionalism when dealing with difficulties while helping people you don’t know and may never ever see again. No matter the challenges or obstacles you may face, I am confident you will handle them – as you always do – with P.R.I.D.E.
The Hampton Police Division and I are monitoring very closely the disturbing events in Minneapolis, Minnesota. First and foremost we would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of George Floyd. I have talked with other chiefs of police and all are extremely concerned at the actions and inaction of the officers involved. Professional policing cannot tolerate and must continue to condemn the abuse of any citizen, no matter their race. Police chiefs, commanders, supervisors, and every officer have a duty to hold each other accountable and to value in the highest regard true respect for all human life.
The Hampton Police Division and I remain committed to the pursuit of fair and equitable justice in our city. We strive to influence others to hold the same level of commitment. Incidents like these, while isolated, can have a lasting ripple effect across the nation. The death of George Floyd is certain to have a negative impact on the perception of police in Hampton as well. Thus we will continue to work relentlessly to maintain and develop relationships, build trust, and partnerships with our community. The Hampton Police Division will continue to mandate the highest quality training in professional policing especially in de-escalation and critical incident management. We remain committed to the recommendations contained in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Most importantly, the Hampton Police Division and I are committed to doing everything we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening in our city. We love our city, our citizens and we are grateful for your continued support.
Only together can we prevent crime and persevere through challenging times.
To all esteemed members of the Portsmouth Police Department,
In light of the tragic event that occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has sparked civil unrest in that area and protests throughout the nation, I feel it is incumbent upon me to remind us all of some important facts.
To put on the uniform and display your badge is an honor that holds tremendous responsibility, courage and sacrifice. Every time you don that Portsmouth Police Department uniform and display your badge, every action you take is a representation of yourself, your family, the City of Portsmouth and ALL law enforcement nationwide. Because of this, the inappropriate action of any individual police officer(s) tarnishes the credibility and trust of all police officers.
Therefore, I need you all to remember our main duty of being a police officer – the preservation of life!
All of our training and departmental polices are guiding principles for the most important role of our chosen profession – protect and preserve life!
The profession of law enforcement we chose has become increasingly more challenging and under intense scrutiny. Which is why I need everyone to take this time of reflection to honor the enormous accountability and trust the community holds for you as a law enforcement officer. Never take that for granted; and strive every day to provide every citizen you come into contact with, the utmost professionalism, dignity and respect.
Furthermore, now is the time for us as a strong family of blue to increase our personal communication, relationship and bond with each other. Everyone is a leader and has the duty and responsibility to step up, step in and take action when they witness injustice or any impropriety while we are in the performance of our duties. I expect all of my officers to hold each other accountable for their actions and if they observe inappropriate behavior to address same immediately in order to minimize possible and/or irrevocable disrepute for the individual officer and our department.
In furtherance, I met with our phenomenal Training Division Team yesterday who are quickly preparing roll call training and amending our current In-Service program to reinforce our policies and expectations of our police officers. Lieutenant Smaglo anticipates having the roll call training posted to PowerDMS within a few days, and we will discuss this matter as well as other pertinent issues more in-depth during In-Service training.
In the meantime, I need every supervisor to take this time and have a candid training/discussion moment with their unit to emphasize our core values, duties and responsibilities to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Laws of Virginia, as well as the Oath of Honor we swore on that memorable day when you became a Portsmouth Police Officer:
On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community's and the agency I serve.
As always, remain safe, take care of yourself and each other!
May GOD continue to protect you all as he holds you in his Grace and Mercy!
Angela M. Greene
Chief of Police
City of Portsmouth Police Department
As human beings, we should all be shocked and saddened by the senseless death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis. As a member of law enforcement, I cannot express enough the deep feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration with his death. These types of events have got to stop and we cannot simply sit back and hope things like this will not happen again. We have to demand that all law enforcement agencies are held to the highest standards and that professionalism and compassionate policing are the mainstays of law enforcement in every single agency in our nation.
The difficult job we perform requires assistance from everyone in our communities and these types of incidents erode at the basic foundation upon which we are built. The relationships we have with our citizens are one of the most critical components of our job and when we lose that trust, we stand to lose everything. James City County Police has always been proactive in building and cultivating positive relationships with everyone in our community. I believe this is evident in the time and emphasis we place on community policing and the myriad of community programs we do each and every year. Our community in James City County expects and deserves this high level of service and we strive to never disappoint.
In 2017, local law enforcement leaders and I signed the Historic Triangle Covenant of Mutuality, Inclusion and Understanding with members of the African American Community. We pledged then and we continue to pledge our commitment to honor one another and to work collaboratively through mutual respect and inclusion for the betterment of our entire community. My sincerest and most heartfelt wishes go out to Mr. Floyd’s family and our entire nation for we have all lost so much.
This story will continue to be updated as more reactions from our local law enforcement come in.