Hampton Roads police departments respond to death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody

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A chain portrait of George Floyd is part of the memorial for him, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, near the site of the arrest of Floyd who died in police custody Monday night in Minneapolis after video shared online by a bystander showed a white officer kneeling on his neck during his arrest as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As Americans across the country react to the death of George Floyd — a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes — police forces in Hampton Roads are condemning the officer’s actions.

Some are also offering apologies.

Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had been accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill Monday night at a grocery store, and police were called.

During Floyd’s arrest, an officer knelt on his neck for an extended period of time as Floyd, who was handcuffed, said he couldn’t breathe.

Four Minneapolis officers, including Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck, have been fired.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for Chauvin to be criminally charged. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested.

Protests and rioting in Minneapolis in response to Floyd’s death has become violent. The National Guard was called in Thursday.

Here are the responses from area police departments:

Newport News Police

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew put out a four-minute video message, apologizing for the death that occurred in Minneapolis.

“It makes us all take a step back and look at our training and our culture,” Drew said.

Watch the full video below:

Hampton Police

Chief Terry Sult sent out a message to the community Thursday about Floyd’s death. In it, he expressed condolences to Floyd’s family and condemned the “abuse of any citizen.”

“The Hampton Police Division and I are monitoring very closely the disturbing events in Minneapolis, Minnesota. First and foremost we would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of George Floyd. I have talked with other chiefs of police and all are extremely concerned at the actions and inaction of the officers involved. Professional policing cannot tolerate and must continue to condemn the abuse of any citizen, no matter their race. Police chiefs, commanders, supervisors, and every officer have a duty to hold each other accountable and to value in the highest regard true respect for all human life.

The Hampton Police Division and I remain committed to the pursuit of fair and equitable justice in our city. We strive to influence others to hold the same level of commitment. Incidents like these, while isolated, can have a lasting ripple effect across the nation. The death of George Floyd is certain to have a negative impact on the perception of police in Hampton as well. Thus we will continue to work relentlessly to maintain and develop relationships, build trust, and partnerships with our community. The Hampton Police Division will continue to mandate the highest quality training in professional policing especially in de-escalation and critical incident management. We remain committed to the recommendations contained in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Most importantly, the Hampton Police Division and I are committed to doing everything we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening in our city. We love our city, our citizens and we are grateful for your continued support.

Only together can we prevent crime and persevere through challenging times.”

– Chief Terry Sult, HPD

Virginia Beach Police

Interim Chief of Police Tony Zucaro released a statement to the Virginia Beach Police Department Thursday, saying Chauvin’s actions were “disturbing” regardless of the race, gender, or ethnicity of the person who was handcuffed and being subdued on the ground.

He said placing a leg or knee on a person’s neck is a technique forbidden by many departments across the country, including Virginia Beach.

“As a member of this organization, you have chosen a profession that requires the uninterrupted delivery of police services, regardless of the circumstances you may face. You accomplish this task day-in and day-out with exceptional professionalism. While your dedication is worthy of praise from many including our city leadership as well as our citizenry, sometimes we must endure challenges and criticism not from our own making.

Over the weekend, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, officers responded to a report of a forgery in progress and encountered an individual, Mr. George Floyd, who they were told was involved in the matter. This is an evolving investigation and even though I do not have the full details, the portions of the encounter video I have viewed are disturbing. According to the department’s news release, Mr. Floyd was ordered from his vehicle and then physically resisted the officers.  After placing him on the ground in handcuffs, it appears an officer attempted to further restrict Mr. Floyd’s movement by placing his leg/knee over Mr. Floyd’s neck – a technique forbidden by many department across the country including ours. As the officers waited for the arrival of an ambulance, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. Citizens who stood nearby and filmed the incident asked the officers to let him off the ground. Ultimately, Mr. Floyd became unresponsive and was pronounced deceased at a nearby hospital. In short order, the Mayor of Minneapolis denounced the officers’ actions and the Chief of Police terminated the employment of the four involved officers. The city and its police department are now managing the aftermath and resulting protests.

I share this story with you as an opportunity to reflect upon our training and to serve as a reminder that our actions, positive and negative, affect all who wear a similar uniform. While the incident in Minneapolis further highlights the racial sensitivities we must continue to improve upon throughout our country, the actions of those officers involved should be considered disturbing regardless of the race, gender, or ethnicity of the person who was handcuffed and being subdued on the ground.  As we continue to serve our very own community, these unfortunate circumstances may be used to counter your interactions with some of our citizens.  Take time to reflect upon your training, experience and fellow officer to engage the difficult with understanding and patience without sacrificing our collective safety for each other and our citizens. Always remember, our community supports our efforts.

Time and time again, I can applaud your professionalism when dealing with difficulties while helping people you don’t know and may never ever see again.  No matter the challenges or obstacles you may face, I am confident you will handle them – as you always do – with P.R.I.D.E.”

– Interim Chief of Police Tony Zucaro, VBPD

Norfolk Police

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone conducted an interview with a television station in Hampton Roads Thursday in response to Floyd’s death.

Police also tweeted a quote from Boone’s interview.

“There was no need for that activity, for that use of force and there’s no excuse for it. What I saw was simply murder.”

– Chief Larry Boone, NPD

Portsmouth Police

Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene shared the following email with her department.

Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene

To all esteemed members of the Portsmouth Police Department,

In light of the tragic event that occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has sparked civil unrest in that area and protests throughout the nation, I feel it is incumbent upon me to remind us all of some important facts.

To put on the uniform and display your badge is an honor that holds tremendous responsibility, courage and sacrifice. Every time you don that Portsmouth Police Department uniform and display your badge, every action you take is a representation of yourself, your family, the City of Portsmouth and ALL law enforcement nationwide. Because of this, the inappropriate action of any individual police officer(s) tarnishes the credibility and trust of all police officers.

Therefore, I need you all to remember our main duty of being a police officer – the preservation of life!

All of our training and departmental polices are guiding principles for the most important role of our chosen profession – protect and preserve life!

The profession of law enforcement we chose has become increasingly more challenging and under intense scrutiny. Which is why I need everyone to take this time of reflection to honor the enormous accountability and trust the community holds for you as a law enforcement officer. Never take that for granted; and strive every day to provide every citizen you come into contact with, the utmost professionalism, dignity and respect.

Furthermore, now is the time for us as a strong family of blue to increase our personal communication, relationship and bond with each other. Everyone is a leader and has the duty and responsibility to step up, step in and take action when they witness injustice or any impropriety while we are in the performance of our duties. I expect all of my officers to hold each other accountable for their actions and if they observe inappropriate behavior to address same immediately in order to minimize possible and/or irrevocable disrepute for the individual officer and our department.

In furtherance, I met with our phenomenal Training Division Team yesterday who are quickly preparing roll call training and amending our current In-Service program to reinforce our policies and expectations of our police officers. Lieutenant Smaglo anticipates having the roll call training posted to PowerDMS within a few days, and we will discuss this matter as well as other pertinent issues more in-depth during In-Service training.

In the meantime, I need every supervisor to take this time and have a candid training/discussion moment with their unit to emphasize our core values, duties and responsibilities to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Laws of Virginia, as well as the Oath of Honor we swore on that memorable day when you became a Portsmouth Police Officer:

On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community’s and the agency I serve.

As always, remain safe, take care of yourself and each other!

May GOD continue to protect you all as he holds you in his Grace and Mercy!

Angela M. Greene, Chief of Police, City of Portsmouth Police Department

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