Op-Ed from V.I. Commissioner: Police Failed to Protect or Serve George Floyd

Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor. (VIPD photo)

We observe yet another death of an African American man through non-combative interaction with law enforcement. George Floyd of Minnesota died as a result of an officer’s pressed knee to his neck for an extended period of time during an arrest.

Mr. Floyd was heard pleading for his life as he repeatedly stated, “I can’t breathe.”

This incident was eerily similar to the case of Eric Garner in New York, when Mr. Garner said the same words before dying at the hands of police in 2014.

I must admit that I had a very difficult time watching the video of the senseless death of another black man. Law enforcement has a responsibility to serve and protect even those suspected of wrongdoing. The position and uniform do not give us the authority to act recklessly. Officers must always assess the situation and when other officers observe wrong procedures, techniques, or actions they must not stand idly by. Officers have a responsibility to respond to their peers and provide redirection or de-escalation as needed.

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The Minneapolis Police Department did the right thing by terminating the officers, and now we must wait for the judicial course to take place.

The Virgin Islands Police Department does not teach its officers to utilize a knee to the neck when making arrests. We teach techniques that are recognized and endorsed as best practices. Anyone looking at the video can surely see that the force used in that situation was unnecessary and the officers missed all the signs to protect and better serve Mr. Floyd.

As the Commissioner of VIPD, I assure our community that my expectation is that officers use those techniques they are trained to utilize, and that excessive force is not tolerated. If members of our community believe that excessive force was used by an officer, please file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Unit. An investigation will be initiated, which can result in discipline, to include termination and criminal charges.

As a life member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, I join NOBLE and the many law enforcement professionals to find solutions to the issues of constitutional policing and ensuring equity in the administration of justice.

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