Alpharetta, Milton and Roswell police departments released statements condemning the actions of the police officers responsible for the death of George Floyd.
Forty-six-year-old George Floyd died in police custody after an officer pinned him to the ground with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. A deli employee called 911 on the Minneapolis man, accusing him of paying with a counterfeit $20 bill.
Autopsies were performed by both an independent medical examiner and the Hennepin County medical examiner. Both examiners said Floyd’s death was a homicide, but the Hennepin County examiner claims the autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” However, according to the private medical examiner hired by the Floyd family, Floyd’s death was caused by mechanical asphyxia — the officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.
Following Floyd’s death, protests have erupted across the country, including protests in and around Atlanta. As protesters have called for justice for Floyd and an end to police brutality, local police departments have begun to speak out.
Alpharetta Police Chief John Robison released a statement May 31 condemning the actions of the Minneapolis police officers.
“I, like our officers, was horrified when viewing the video involving the death of George Floyd,” Robison said. “Excessive, or improper use of force of any kind by police officers cannot be tolerated……..period.”
Robison released his statement after rumors rippled across social media that protesters and looters were coming to Alpharetta, specifically Avalon and downtown. Alpharetta did not experience any looting or rioting, but Robison said he cannot “comprehend responses to such deplorable incidents that include violence and damaging property.”
Like Robison, Roswell and Milton’s police departments also released statements on Floyd’s death and the protests.
“The Milton police value being equally responsive and fair to all citizens no matter the climate or circumstance,” Milton police captain Charles Barstow said. “As such, we are here to protect all our residents, regardless of race, creed or color.”
Barstow said Milton work regularly to educate their officers through classes on cultural awareness and fostering positive community relations. Roswell police chief James Conroy mirrored Barstow’s statement.
“When members of our community hurt, we all hurt,” Conroy said.
“As a whole, the Roswell Police Department condemns the actions of ANY police officer who acts with inappropriate and excessive force in ANY situation,” Conroy said. “This includes officers who fail to act when they observe another officer using excessive force.”
Officers are required by the state of Georgia to undergo at least two hours of de-escalation training from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center each year.
“We as a department go well above and beyond the state’s de-escalation training requirements,” Robison said. “Each year, we conduct a great deal of scenario-based training that helps ensure officers work effectively in their role as a law enforcement officer. We intentionally have de-escalation training built into most of these scenarios to ensure these concepts are reinforced consistently and effectively.”
According Roswell public information officer Sean Thompson, the Roswell Police Department incorporates that training into a 40-hour work week every year, called the Crisis Intervention Team.
“The overall goal for police when effecting an arrest is to control, not to hurt the individual we are dealing with,” Thompson said.
The training teaches officers how to de-escalate stressful situations when dealing with “mental health, drug/ alcohol users, or unruly/ irrational people.” Officers must successfully demonstrate what they learn that week to pass the course. Thompson says the most successful way to de-escalate a situation is to talk and listen to the person. The training also covers use of force guidelines and arrest techniques.
“We took a look at the recent use of force in Minneapolis and every officer I have talked to has said it was wrong,” Thompson said. “We do not train like that here in Roswell. In fact, we frequently talk about positional asphyxiation and excited delirium which are often the causes of in-custody deaths. We understand that once we have someone in custody, it is our responsibility to now take care of that person and get them immediate medical attention if needed.”
During numerous protests, police officers have resorted to the use of pepper spray and tear gas on crowds. According to Roswell Police Department’s policy on the use of chemicals like tear gas, unruly crowds that do not disperse when ordered are “indicative of irrational behavior and/or violent criminal intent.” SWAT operators who have specialized training are the only ones authorized to deploy chemical munitions, Thompson explained.
Officers are told to follow the procedures of containment, communication, evacuation, command and control, use of force, and use of chemical agents as enumerated in this policy. The use of chemicals like tear gas is considered use of force, and is therefore documented and later investigated. However, Thompson says there is no state mandate on the use of these chemicals and policies change within jurisdictions.
“We realize that we, as a department, are not perfect,” Conroy said. “We must continue our conversations with our community to make us an even better police department. Our primary responsibility is to protect life and property, but we cannot do that without the trust and partnership with our Roswell Community. As we begin to return to regular operations, we hope to create a plan to have more conversation.”
Peaceful protests have taken place throughout north Fulton.