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A stunning number of police leaders across the country are breaking through the “blue wall” of law enforcement silence on police brutality to condemn the Minneapolis officers complicit in George Floyd’s death.
Police chiefs in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and California have been openly condemning the actions of Officer Derek Chauvin, the 19-year MPD veteran who was caught on video pressing his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck for several minutes during a routine arrest on Monday, and two other officers held him down, even as Floyd pleaded for his life and said he couldn’t breathe.
Top cops in a number of cities have taken to social media to comment about Chauvin, calling his actions “wrong,” “disturbing,” and antithetical to their duty as police. And the National Fraternal Order of Police union issued a statement saying Floyd's death "shocked and horrified our nation…Based on the bystander’s video from this incident, we witnessed a man in distress pleading for help. The fact that he was a suspect in custody is immaterial—police officers should at all times render aid to those who need it."
For decades, police officers of all ranks have steered clear of talking openly about police misconduct, regardless of personal opinion. Often referred to as the “blue wall of silence,” this unofficial code between law enforcement personnel entails never speaking out against another officer. Often considered just another part of being in the brotherhood of law enforcement, critics have long argued that the “blue wall of silence” widens the already deep divide between officers and their community.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who also heads the U.S.’ Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), told the Wall Street Journal that he couldn’t imagine any officer justifying what has already been seen of the arrest.
“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to all Americans,” Acevedo later said in a statement on behalf of the MCCA. “‘The officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession.”
In Durham, North Carolina, Chief of Police C.J. Davis said she was incensed by what she saw in the video.
"Emotions of outrage,” Davis told a local ABC affiliate while in uniform. “And to tell you the truth I have not watched the entire video. I could not watch the entire video. My spirit just didn't allow me to witness that type of treatment to a human being."
“Whether it's here in Durham or anywhere, any person of any level of compassion for the human race for that matter would have a sense of anger and desire to fix it," she continued. “The two Minneapolis officers seen in the video have a history of conduct complaints. None led to disciplinary action.”
The past conduct of two of the officers involved in Floyd's fatal arrest has become a point of outrage for protesters. Officer Chauvin had 18 previous complaints filed against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department. Officer Tou Thao, who is seen on video refusing to intervene in the arrest, had six complaints filed against him in he past.
In Florida, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina reportedly met with executive staff and officers in the department to discuss police misconduct.
“It is very evident that what occurred there was wrong,” Colina said to his officers Wednesday, according to local ABC affiliate Local 10. “There is no training across anywhere in this country, especially here in the city of Miami, that teaches someone to take that kind of action. There is a lack of humanity that is exhibited there. We need to put the value of life significantly higher than any crime that would have occurred there.”
In Tennessee, Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy took to Twitter to argued that any officer who doesn’t take issue with what has already been seen of the Floyd arrest, should leave the force altogether.
“There is no need to see more video,” Roddy tweeted on 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.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore also tweet Wednesday, and said the arrest goes “against the basic law enforcement principle of preservation of life.”
“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge — it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” he said.
Less than 24 hours after the footage was posted online, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo told reporters that the four officers involved in the death had been fired. Arradondo, who rose through the ranks to become the city’s first black police chief in 2017, even went so far as to apologize to Floyd’s family on Thursday.
Cover: In this Feb. 6, 2019 file photo, Houston Police Department chief Art Acevedo testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, at Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)