Police chiefs stand with those appalled by George Floyd death

Chief constables and senior police leaders from forces across the country have issued a joint statement about the death of George Floyd amid concerns that protests in the UK may be increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Jun 3, 2020
By Tony Thompson
George Floyd

Mr Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 in the US city of Minneapolis after being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit banknote at a market. During the arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kept his knee on the side of Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying face down.

In footage of the arrest, Mr Floyd can be heard saying he could not breathe, before he is seen being lifted on to a stretcher and into an ambulance. He died in hospital later the same day.

Officer Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and three other officers involved in the arrest have been dismissed.

The incident has led to six days of violent protests in cities across the US and similar demonstrations involving thousands of people haven taken place in London. Smaller demonstrations have taken place in other UK cities.

In a joint statement, Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Mike Cunningham, chief executive officer of the College of Policing, and Paul Griffiths, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: “We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.

“We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then. Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored.

“In the UK we have a long-established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.

“Policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short. When we do, we are not afraid to shine a light on injustices or to be held to account.

“The relationship between the police and the public in the UK is strong but there is always more to do. Every day, up and down the country, officers and staff are working to strengthen those relationships and address concerns. Only by working closely with our communities do we build trust and help keep people safe.

“We know people want to make their voices heard. The right to lawful protest is key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate. But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people. So for whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time.”

Individual police leaders released further statements of their own. Chief constable Peter Goodman of Derbyshire Constabulary said: “I, like my chief constable colleagues, am shocked and deeply saddened as a career police officer by the apparent unlawful killing of George Floyd.

“What I have witnessed bears no relationship to the values I have held dear as a police officer throughout my service. Justice needs to be done and healing needs to start with renewed energy.

“At Derbyshire Constabulary we value and respect our diverse communities and we support the statement that has been issued by the National Police Chief’s Council. We as a force continue to build on our relationships with the public and we will continue to do this by working with local groups, community leaders and faith groups.

“As well as working with the public it is important to continue to hear the voice of our staff to improve working practices and to train and educate our workforce.

“Where there are plans for any mass gatherings we, like other forces, will ensure proportionate and consistent policing plans are put in place, where required. The rights to protest are well established in this country; however these are exceptional times where coronavirus regulations now prevent such gatherings and personal responsibility is now key.”

“For those who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others. Keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “Like many people in Scotland, indeed across the world, I am shocked and distressed about events in the United States. Racism in all its forms is disgraceful and unacceptable. Those events do not reflect our style of policing in Scotland and we continue to value the strong bond of trust with all our citizens and communities.

“That trust is based on mutual respect and an absolute commitment to public service. Our legitimacy and authority comes through the consent of our fellow citizens. I am deeply grateful to the vast majority of people in Scotland who give their support and co-operation to our officers and staff, as we all play our part in maintaining a strong, cohesive and peaceful society.

“I am committed to relentlessly improving how we reflect, represent and engage with our communities, and to ensuring Police Scotland’s 23,000 officers and staff uphold our values of human rights, fairness, integrity and respect.

“On the occasions where individuals do not reflect those values, we consistently take necessary and proportionate action. What I see every day in policing in Scotland are brave, professional, and compassionate people, who are dedicated to public service. That has never been more evident than over the past 10 weeks.

“We are aware of a number of planned events in Scotland in the days ahead. We would encourage everyone to continue to follow the Scottish Government’s regulations and guidance on meeting outdoors and will engage with organisers to minimise any risks to public safety or health.”

Association of Police and Crime Commisioners equality, diversity and human rights leads, David Munro, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Surrey, and Hardyal Dhindsa, PCC for Derbyshire, said: “Alongside our communities, we are saddened and appalled by the footage that has emerged from the US over recent days of the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police officers. We express our heartfelt sympathies to the family and loved ones of George Floyd and we acknowledge the current strength of feeling as well as the impact that incidents of this nature have on communities around the world.

“In this country, we are proud of the ‘policing by consent’ model on which our forces operate and the work that our police officers and staff undertake day in, day out to keep our communities safe. We also have clear and accountable governance systems in place, with directly elected PCCs representing their local communities and holding their chief constables to account on behalf of their communities for policing in their area.

“We are committed to working with our communities and chief constables to ensure that the principle of ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’ is worked towards and achieved, and that we deliver against the important commitments set out within the NPCC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.”

Arfon Jones, North Wales PCC, said the tragedy had “besmirched the name of police officers all over the world”.

He added: “I utterly condemn the violence that led to the death of George Floyd. I was sickened when I saw the footage for the first time. I thought that kneeling and putting all his weight on George Floyd’s neck was over the top, brutal and totally unnecessary. I was shocked when I saw them using so much force.

“There were three police officers there are the time and Mr Floyd did not appear to be resisting. As a former police officer, I felt ashamed. What happened in Minneapolis has given a bad name to the police service right across the world.

“Donald Trump’s response has been equally reprehensible. He is using this tragedy for political purposes to appeal to his White supremacist base. He is deliberately inflaming an already volatile situation and that is unforgivable.”

The Metropolitan Black Police Association (MetBPA) also issued a statement, saying its members and the communities of London “have felt the impact of the recent incident in Minneapolis and across the US”.

It added: “We are saddened by these events and by the rift it has exacerbated. The MetBPA and its executive support the National Black Police Association UK position and stand in solidarity with them and our community.

“We uphold the MPS core values of professionalism, courage, integrity and compassion. We believe that any officer who falls below the standards set should be held accountable. In times like these strong leadership is required, not just from the people in power but from each one of us. Our vision of working together to build a better future for all is the cornerstone of why we exist and this applies more now than it ever has.

“The death of Mr George Floyd weighs heavily on our collective consciousness and revisits times gone by. This is the time to look ahead to ensure that we will not be calling more names in the future and more families will not be mourning their loves ones. We are working with our communities and the policing family to make sure that the way in which we police is acceptable to all.”

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