Local law enforcement agencies are agreeing with Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict; however they say the case only amplifies the need for reform.
The jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all the counts he faced over the death of George Floyd. Chauvin, 45, has been found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Following the verdict announcement April 20, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Paulding County Sheriff’s Office and Atlanta Police Department released statement on the verdict.
“The guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin amplify the need for criminal justice reform,” Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat said. “While no amount of litigation can provide true justice for George Floyd’s loved ones, and the community affected by this tragedy, the jury’s verdict mandates that we – as leaders in law enforcement – address the issue head on.”
Alpharetta Chief of Police John Robison also condemned Chauvin’s actions.
“What he did was completely wrong, one hundred percent, and he’s now enjoying the consequences of his actions,” Robison said. “From a policing standpoint, he could not have handled it worse. It was a disregard for life.”
“Our number one priority is the prioritization of life,” Robison said. “Everything we do, even someone we’re arresting, we want to protect life.”
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant spoke to reporters following the verdict, but did no give his personal feelings on the verdict itself.
“One of the things we have been saying as a city and police department is we are in full support of peaceful protests,” Bryant said. “I breathed a sigh of relief when people responded peacefully inside the city of Atlanta and thought that was the right reaction for folks to exercise their freedom to protest and march peacefully.”
Bryant said the department has had additional training and planning since last summer’s protests. Bryant told reporters they have been in contact with different departments during the trial, including the FBI and GBI.
Paulding County Sheriff’s Office did not explicitly mention the verdict in their statement when asked for Sheriff Gary Gulledge’s position.
“Law enforcement officers across the nation have difficult jobs, we go to work every day knowing that we are doing our best to keep our communities safe,” Gulledge said. “It is important that we trust the judicial system will fulfill their obligations to ensure justice has been served in each case.”
Fulton County Sheriff Labat also stated they have participated in de-escalation training since the protests erupted last summer.
“Our commitment to meaningful reform is evidenced by the recent designation of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office as one of two agencies to participate in de-escalation training,” Labat said. “This vital training is sponsored by Pepsi Stronger Together, the Close the Gap Foundation, and the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation. Through this groundbreaking initiative, 1000 deputies in the Fulton and Henry County Sheriff’s Offices will be trained on de-escalation techniques that will serve as an integral component of our law enforcement response, and ultimately build a better community for the citizens of Fulton County.”
Alpharetta Police Department has also increased its de-escalation training since last summer by integrating de-escalation training into other types of training. The department plans to do more than 20 hours of de-escalation training this year.
“Everything we do, we always somehow interject de-escalation training into that,” Robison said. “We want to make sure our officers are as trained as possible to de-escalate in a variety of ways to make sure life is being protected.”
Statewide, law enforcement officers are required to complete at least two hours of de-escalation training each year. According to a 2015 survey of police academies conducted by the Police Executive Research Firm, recruits spent an average of eight hours each on de-escalation, crisis intervention and use of force training. The survey states recruits spend around 58 hours on firearm training and 49 hours on defensive tactics.
“Training really is a key to a lot of these issues,” Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Jeffery Carroll said.
“So we really have to make sure we’re practicing these things. I know over the past 25 years a lot of agencies really did not experience demonstrations to this level until last year. So make sure we’re prepared and continue to train.”
“While I am grateful that the verdict is guilty on all three counts, there is no verdict or punishment that will bring George Floyd back to his family,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. “As tragedies have propelled our nation into a level of needed consciousness and action in the past, it is my sincere hope that the tragic death of George Floyd will forever be our reminder that the work towards reform, healing and reconciliation is not a one time event.
“We must continue this work if we ever hope to truly be one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,” Bottoms said.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department have not yet responded to request for comment.