Clark County’s top criminal justice officials have released statements on George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests, with both calling the Minneapolis man’s death shocking and unjustifiable.
Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis last week. He was handcuffed on the ground and pleading for air while a white police officer kept his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested, charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter with culpable negligence as of Wednesday. Three officers who stood by and did not intervene have been charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder.
Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said he was deeply troubled by the actions of the officers “who caused the death of George Floyd.” Golik said the footage of the death was difficult to watch, and the inaction of the other officers on scene was almost as shocking as the conduct of the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Floyd’s death “should move all of us to confront the undeniable fact that institutional racism exists. Bias exists. Brutality exists. As prosecutors, we must face the fact that no branch of our justice system is immune from bias,” Golik said.
He said prosecutors must continue to seek reforms and be open to all ideas about how those changes should look and happen. He said prosecutors also must continue to require independent investigations and transparent reviews of use of deadly force by law enforcement “in every case.”
Sheriff Chuck Atkins said Americans are blessed to have their own beliefs and to have the opportunity to disagree with each other, including the government, without repression as long as that protest is peaceful.
The sheriff said it seems there is a small group of people who are choosing to protest in a way that is damaging, dangerous and illegal. He said their actions shift the focus away from where it needs to be.
“I cannot, nor would I try, to justify (Floyd’s death) in any way, shape or form. I support the actions taken by the Minneapolis Police Department against those involved in this case and trust the prosecutor and the courts to take the proper time to determine the ultimate charges which should be brought against those involved,” Atkins said.
Law enforcement must not turn a blind eye to the wrong and illegal actions of colleagues, Atkins said, because doing so tarnishes the institution’s integrity and diminishes trust from the community.
People working in law enforcement are by no means perfect, the sheriff said.
“When we put on that badge there isn’t something that magically happens which gives us the ability to do everything right … It is our responsibility to supervise and train those wearing the badge to be ethical and of the highest integrity and if they should fail it is our responsibility to you to do the right thing and hold them, and therefore ourselves, accountable.”