Local leaders share their views on law enforcement reform
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Local George Floyd protests continued over the past week, joining worldwide demonstrations held in tribute to the man who died on May 25 at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Protests were held in Bunnell on June 6 and in New Smyrna Beach on Sunday, which drew about 400 people.
A protest also was planned on Thursday at City Island in Daytona Beach, led by local clergy, police and city leaders.
Former Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was videotaped kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers at the scene are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
After several memorial services over the past week, Floyd was laid to rest next to his mother, Larcenia Floyd, on Tuesday at Houston Memorial Gardens in Pearland.
The Daytona Times asked some local leaders to weigh in on what needs to happen to ensure that what happened to Floyd doesn’t happen again. Here are their responses.
What happened to George Floyd should never happen to anyone anywhere in America. When I saw that video, I saw a complete lack of empathy and a void of humanity on the part of the police.
We can’t prevent every failure of humanity, but at the Sheriff’s Office we’ve implemented policy to address it. Our policy states that the sanctity of all life comes first and excessive force will not be tolerated.
Deputies are authorized to use only the minimal amount of force required to overcome a threat or make an arrest.
A step further
Our policy also goes a step further: All deputies have a duty to intervene if they anticipate or observe the unreasonable, unnecessary or disproportionate use of force.
You can read our full policy at volusiasheriff.org, along with our use of force analysis compiled by the Police Executive Research Forum in 2018.
We’re not perfect, and no department is but I believe our policy is a model for the rest of America.
We must look at reform in law enforcement, how officers interact with minorities in our community and the unfair criminal justice system, because the system is broken. Had it not been for someone taking a video of Floyd’s murder, the outcome would have been much different; with officers being cleared.
This is not new in our communities. African Americans have long said that our people have been and continue to be murdered at the hands of law enforcement who get away with it.
We must also look at the bigger picture of structural racism in America when it comes to housing, employment, health care, education, equal opportunities, the economic state of our community and more. Now is the time for all races and ethnic groups to come together for healing and reconciliation.
It is my hope that this community will move forward with other initiatives that would bring all of us together in unity so that trust can be regained. That has to happen. But until then, we will have to keep marching and fighting. We’re also asking the local police department to create a citizens review board.
We have to start with harsher consequences for officers who use excess force and manipulation tactics. Psychiatric evaluations and sensitivity training should be required before hiring. Officers who commit murder should be charged for their crimes and pay restitution to the victim’s family.
The money should come from their personal insurance bonds, not taxpayers. They should also be banned from purchasing or being around firearms and should have to register with the state as a danger to society.
Each time a police officer kills a person, that entire police department should be fined, audited and put under an immediate and substantial civil and human rights investigation.
A percentage of the millions of dollars to fund police should be allocated to youth programs, nonprofits and schools in the communities so that we can ultimately save the next generation of Black children from being killed by police.
It starts with police relationships with the community. We have to define and develop better relationships between police and youngsters early. We need to be evaluating policing policies that allow brutality and excessive force to happen.
Police training should make sure officers are learning and understanding different cultures and de-escalate situations. There needs to be screening of current law enforcement, especially those with a history of abuse.
Whenever an officer does something out of line, we need to make sure they are held accountable. Law enforcement also needs to rid itself of those types of officers. I think our local sheriff and police have tried to get out in front of these things, but they know work still has to be done.
I will be working on elements in New Smyrna Beach that I think could help – the release of a unified proclamation from the city that includes city government, faith-based organizations, small businesses and nonprofits to relay these measures won’t be tolerated; yearlong sensitivity workshops that will serve as an environment for tense communication on various topics. These workshops will include African American art, history and culture for all afterschool programs.
I will also continue Sunday peaceful protests. This advocates for the removal of injustice, institutionalized racism and all forms of oppression. I believe uniting with allies will help move us forward.
Linda Sharpe-Matthews Flagler County NAACP chapter president and retired New York Police Department officer
I think we should be a lot more careful with how we spend our money. We need to withhold our funds and stop spending money with communities that don’t think about minorities and don’t contribute back to minority businesses or entities. We need to spend our money within our community.
We need to let people know that we do have power in the purse and that we will be withholding our spending until things change. And I think that will have a tremendous impact on how things are done, what legislature is passed, and on everything. Economics always make a difference.
I think that there should be a residency requirement for officers. I think because if you’re invested in an area where you know your neighbors, you’ll do a better job. You’re not coming in from some other place to be in charge of people that you don’t respect.
Flagler has done a good job with that, but agencies need to recruit more police officers that understand different cultures. They need to retrain officers.
They need to do a totally different type of psychological profile on these officers, and a thorough vetting. Not just checking the references that they put down – but checking with people that live near them but may not associate with them.