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‘I hate this for my chosen profession:’ Abilene leaders share views on George Floyd death



ABILENE, TX – The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota while in police custody Monday has sparked challenging discussions in Abilene.

Abilene Police Department Chief Stan Standridge on Thursday offered his “sincere condolences” to the Floyd family.

Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams said he’s heard from residents who are upset by the incident. Phone calls and Facebook messages sent to the mayor included a request to protest in Abilene.

As a black man raising sons, former Abilene Independent School District trustee Kelvin Kelley worries about their safety every time they are outside the home, especially when driving.

‘Serious misconduct’

Standridge is the latest of many city police chiefs across the country speaking out against what was seen on video. Floyd, 46, was a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer pinned Floyd to the ground under his knee. The officer has since been identified as Derek Chauvin, 44.

The incident was recorded by an onlooker and uploaded to Facebook.

“I do not know all of the facts related to this tragedy, but I have seen enough to know that a life was taken due to serious misconduct,” Standridge said in a written statement to the Reporter-News Thursday afternoon. “A (grand jury) will need to assess whether it is criminal.”

Chauvin and three other officers who failed to intervene on behalf of Floyd, who complained of not being able to breathe before seemingly losing consciousness under the weight of the knee, were fired.

Chauvin and the three other officers were arrested Friday. Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd’s family and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had requested charges for the officer.

Frey also called for peace amid the protests as looting and fires were met with tear gas and police lockdowns.

Tarnishes the profession

Standridge, meanwhile, said the situation is an unfortunate incident that reflects poorly on police officers.

From a chief’s perspective, he said, he wonders about what Minneapolis’s hiring process looks like. Abilene’s, he said, is sometimes criticized because the department seeks to identify future officers who fit the right mold.

And the community refuses to settle for anything less, he said.

“I hate this for my chosen profession,” Standridge said in the statement. “These officers do not define professional policing in America. Yet, police must acknowledge that these incidents are occurring.

“For that, I am deeply sorry. I will say it again. I apologize for my chosen profession. These officers do not reflect on Abilene’s police culture, where we value mutual respect and trust.”

For Standridge’s full statement, see these tweets:

Training and trust

Abilene officers undergo constant use-of-force training, Standridge said. Beginning in the hiring process, officers must understand “robust policies (and) procedures” that seek to inform the department’s culture.

The department also stresses de-escalation techniques, he said.

“(De-escalation) is the foundation of professional policing,” Standridge said. “We also teach officers about police legitimacy. Legitimacy is conferred, not assumed. It must be predicated on mutual respect and trust.”

Assistant Chief Mike Perry said trust is essential in policing, and the department values the trust it has from the Abilene community.

It’s a discussion topic early in training, he said. Trust is built slowly over time — decades even — through many good deeds.

But it’s a fragile thing, Perry said.

“It can be destroyed in an instant by a horrible decision by a single employee,” Perry said in his own written statement to the Reporter-News Thursday. “We use the analogy of trust being like a bucket of water filled drop by drop: slow to fill and quick to empty. We challenge our employees to never be the one that empties the bucket.”

Perry, a member of the police force for 29 years, said he cannot comprehend the actions that led to Floyd’s death as shown in the video.

But he also can’t understand the lack of intervention from the other three officers involved.

“What we saw in Minneapolis was disturbing and devastating,” Perry said. “Their bucket is empty. It will take many, many years to rebuild. Unfortunately, I think buckets everywhere took a hit.

“This is still a noble profession practiced by hundreds of thousands of exceptional men and women that truly care about their communities. The indefensible bad acts by a few do not represent the overwhelming majority of the good.”

‘Personally disturbed’

Williams said he thinks people should be very upset about Floyd’s death. He’s “personally disturbed.”  It shouldn’t just be people of color feeling this way, though.

All Americans should, he said.

“And all of us should want some accountability, without exception,” Williams said Friday.

But he doesn’t see the violence, the rioting and looting taking place throughout sections of Minneapolis as being productive.

“(When) we as Americans see any kind of an injustice has occurred, we ought to stand up and we ought to stand up together,” Williams said. “But we don’t want to condone one bad for another bad. That just creates a culture of violence. And you can never defeat violence with violence. You can never defeat evil (with) evil. Evil can only be defeated with good.