Virginia police chiefs reinforce need to maintain the public’s trust in the wake of George Floyd’s death

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the police chiefs for the City of Richmond and Henrico County reacted Friday to the killing of George Floyd, who died while in police custody after a Minneapolis officer was seen kneeling on his neck, saying his death damages the public’s trust in law enforcement.

Floyd’s killing sparked three days of protests across the state and other parts of the country. The officer seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he complained that he couldn’t breathe, Derek Chauvin, was fired and eventually charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and local police chiefs issued statements in the wake of the charges against Chauvin in order to reassure residents of their commitment “to maintain the trust of the public.”

“On a day in which our country is once again faced with an incident where the trust in law enforcement was shaken,” Dana Schrad, the executive director of the association, wrote, “and a precious human life was lost, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police reiterates one of the most basic and primary tenets of our profession: the preservation of life.”

Richmond Police Chief William Smith shared a statement on the Richmond Police Department’s Facebook page.

I am outraged and sickened by the actions I saw in Minneapolis. George Floyd’s egregious and unnecessary death reinforces just how far we still have to go as a nation in law enforcement to replace the fear, mistrust and bias felt among many in the communities we serve with relationships built on transparency, accountability, equity and inclusion. My heart goes out to Mr. Floyd’s family and to the Minneapolis community, and I hope that both find healing and justice.”

Richmond Police Chief William Smith

The Henrico County Police Department released a statement that Chief Humberto Cardounel sent to each member of the police division and the message from the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police regarding Floyd’s death.

“Once again we find ourselves questioning the acts of others that have tarnished our profession and eroded the public trust bestowed upon us by the community we serve,” Cardounel’s message began. “We are public servants. I expect everyone has seen the images from Minneapolis and have been following what has been going on there and across the country. Although we are many miles away from Minneapolis, the impact here is very real.”

Local leaders also addressed Floyd’s death on Friday. In a statement, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said that it’s everybody’s responsibility “to question and transform institutions predicated on racism.”

The murder of George Floyd pains me deeply. It’s a pain long felt by people who look like me, a pain ingrained in the bones of Black Americans. My heart breaks for the Floyd family and the Minneapolis community, but this is bigger than one city. This is a burden we all bear. Yes, we must interrogate and condemn the America that treats Black lives as expendable, whether at the hands of the police or the coronavirus. But it’s not enough to believe this is all about changing hearts and minds. America was built on the backs of slaves, and our city is still plagued by the inequities that rose from this shameful foundation. Healing this country will require systems-level change to abolish the injustices that continue to oppress and pin down Black Americans until they can’t breathe. It is the responsibility of us all – no matter our race or station – to question and transform institutions predicated on racism, and to do so with love in our hearts and the names of our lost brothers and sisters on our lips.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released his own statement on the killing of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

This has been such a sad and emotional week, with too many violent and blatant reminders of how far our country is from genuine equity and fair treatment.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have been wrongfully killed, simply for being black. People all over our country are hurting and angry, and rightly so. The fear that is so common in the hearts and lives of many is real—will someone I love be next?

No one should have to carry that type of burden but for the African American community and communities of color, this is a reality. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the weight of this struggle, highlighting long standing systemic inequities in America.

What we see with our own eyes in Minneapolis, calls all of us to renew our commitment to working for justice—advancing cultural affirmation and respect, access to good health, education, fair housing, business opportunities, voting, and criminal justice reform. This is our shared responsibility—this is a humanity issue.

People are crying out for justice and healing. But those aren’t feelings—they’re actions, and we have a lot of work to do in this country and in our Commonwealth. As Governor of Virginia, I make the commitment to ensure that we continue to address these issues head on, even when it is uncomfortable and difficult because I believe our diversity is our greatest strength.”

Gov. Ralph Northam

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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