A6 protest photo.JPG

Protesters marched through the streets of downtown Salem over the weekend on on Monday.

POLK COUNTY — Law enforcement leaders in Polk County have issued statements condemning the actions of the officers involved in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd died on May 25 after being detained by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who had Floyd on the ground and pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin and the three other officers who responded to the incident were fired, and Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder.

On Wednesday, Minnesota added a second-degree murder charge against Chauvin and filed charges against the three other officers who were there.

Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton issued a statement Monday saying that he is horrified by the killing.

“I am shocked, horrified, and outraged by the brutal killing of George Floyd while in police custody,” Felton said. “There is simply no legitimate police tactic, policy, or procedure that justifies what occurred. I join with law enforcement professionals throughout the country and within our community who unreservedly condemn the actions of the involved former officers. I send my sincerest condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends for their loss.”

Dallas Police Chief Tom Simpson said Floyd’s killing have caused those in his profession “sorrow and disgust.”

“Also for the past few days, I’ve contemplated how best to convey to our local community the sorrow and disgust those of us who proudly wear the badge feel — once again learning of a tragedy committed by some who wears the law enforcement uniform and then commits unthinkable acts. Today I’ve come to the reality that there is just no ‘best way,’” Simpson said. “This was a senseless act. It’s encouraging to me that the authorities in Minnesota were able to quickly remove the perpetrator from the position of authority and initiate appropriate legal action. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of George Floyd, a gentleman who suffered a tragic, senseless death, perpetrated by yet another person who chose to tarnish the badge I’ve worn for nearly forty years.”

Monmouth Police Chief Darrell Tallan said he and his department stand with those in law enforcement who condemn the actions of the Minneapolis officers.

“Monmouth police officers value human life and are trained to do everything in our power to help and listen to everyone we encounter,” Tallan said. “We take an oath and are sworn to protect all people in need, no matter the circumstances.”

Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton said the events that have taken place in recently days have left him speechless.

“The reputation and honor of my chosen profession has been tarnished, which sickens me,” Garton said. “Its very unfortunate that the actions of one can impact the entire profession in every corner of our nation. But know that here locally, the people who serve our communities are in this profession for the right reasons, to make a difference, to ensure our county is safe and a great place to live.”

Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the nation, some that ended in rioting and looting. Protesting in Portland, Salem and Eugene has resulted in property damage and confrontations with police. Salem declared an emergency and instituted an 8 p.m. curfew after mostly peaceful protests over the weekend and Monday turned violent, with objects thrown at officers and some property damage.

Local leaders say those rioting, looting and causing damage are a small portion of those taking to the streets in protest – and distract from what is a real problem in law enforcement.

“Peaceful protests are understandable. The senseless mayhem and looting—while concerning—is not the most troubling issue at hand. The looting and rioting seems to be the work of people who are actually impeding the efforts of those who are trying to peacefully protest and genuinely seek change,” Simpson said. “What’s most troubling for me and many in our profession is the underlying issue—and this has been at the forefront of my mind. It’s hard to fathom how someone can choose to wear the law enforcement uniform and then disgrace it and everything we stand for, by carrying out violence against another human being under the guise of authority.”

Garton said most who protest do so to because they want to see change.

“The right to protest is one thing, but when small criminal elements take advantage of the protests to loot, to damage business, to hurt fellow Americans and to target law enforcement and their families is despicable,” he said. “These criminals are diminishing the value of peaceful protests and the message of change that so many are trying to convey.”

Police agencies in Polk County say that they appreciate the trust their communities have given them and ask that citizens who are skeptical of law enforcement give them the opportunity to earn their trust.

“Since we’ve interacted with so many of you on a personal or professional level, we’d like to believe that most of you already know that our officers are good and decent humans first. That’s what we’ve been striving for,” read a post on Independence Police Department’s Facebook page. “But sometimes we forget that to some, we are just another uniform. The same uniform worn by others who have committed terrible acts and who do not deserve to wear it. We know that for some, no matter our efforts, that will never change.

“So for anyone who needs or is willing to hear this, know, that despite what is happening around us, our commitment to serving every person in our community with dignity and respect has not wavered,” the post continued. “We will not allow the abhorrent actions of others to define us or deter us from doing what we know is right.”

Felton said he will not “look away from the pain our system has caused so many.”

“Rather, I pledge to learn from the hard lessons of these past days, listen to the voices raised in anguish, and further dedicate myself to the principle of equal justice for all,” Felton said.

Garton said law enforcement has work to do to gain and keep the trust of the public.

“We are all human, regardless of our background, the color of our skin or our status within the community. Human life is precious, no matter who you are,” Garton said.

I know that law enforcement as a whole can do better and that we will do better, because it’s the right thing to do. Trust is a thing that can take years to build and a second to destroy and that is a fact of life in this profession. My goal is to continually build trust within the community to ensure that my office meets our core values on a daily basis.”

Simpson added that police officers are human and will make mistakes.

“If this should occur, please give us an opportunity to fix things. I encourage all of our officers—me included—to acknowledge the mistakes we make, learn from them and make corrections as necessary to become better… better people in general and better servants to our community,” Simpson said.

Independence Police Department says it welcomes citizen oversight.

“We understand if our words are not enough right now. We know you will be watching. Good. We expect nothing less,” the post read. “We must be accountable to our community, to the people we serve. We look forward to continuing to work together toward getting better every day.”

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