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'Unconscionable, horrifying’: Lynchburg police chief’s message about George Floyd’s death

‘...Intervene if you see another officer taking inappropriate action.’

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LYNCHBURG, Va. – A local police chief shared a message with the community and police department in light of George Floyd’s death while in custody in Minneapolis.

[Police officer who knelt on George Floyd has been arrested, charged with murder]

In a statement, Lynchburg police chief, Ryan Zuidema, said, “What happened on Monday in Minneapolis is unconscionable, horrifying, and is not representative of the police profession.”

Zuidema released a message he had previously shared with the Lynchburg Police Department.

In it, he said the department has forbidden the “technique” used by the officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck. It’s been forbidden since at least the 1970s, according to Zuidema. He said information about that technique is part of a required re-training eSign for the department.

Zuidema reminded officers of their duty to request medical assistance when someone in custody alerts them to a medical issue. He also reminded officers of their duty to “intervene if you see another officer taking inappropriate action.”

“...The footage I have seen is alarming. Mr. Floyd’s family should not have to experience the pain of seeing their loved one treated that way, nor should they have to watch his last breaths taken in that manner,” said Zuidema.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police also released a statement regarding Floyd’s death and the events in Minneapolis. You can read it here.

READ ZUIDEMA’S FULL STATEMENT HERE:

"To our community:

Our hearts are breaking and our condolences are with the family of George Floyd as they grieve the unnecessary loss of their family member.

What happened on Monday in Minneapolis is unconscionable, horrifying, and is not representative of the police profession. The Lynchburg Police Department does not and will not accept this type of behavior by members of our department. In every interaction, our officers will treat all individuals with respect and dignity at all times.

We value the partnerships we have built in our community and we ask you to continue to partner with us as our profession works through these challenging times.

Below is the message I shared with my staff today. Again, thank you for your continued partnership and please reach out to us if you ever have any questions or concerns.

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LPD Family,

When you made the decision to enter this line of work, each of you may have had different motivations – to give back to the community, to right injustices you’ve seen in your life, or maybe to serve as a force for good in a time when some don’t have the best impression of our profession. Every day, you go out into our city and into the unknown to protect people you don’t even know. And every day, you go above and beyond the call of duty to do the right thing because you see a need – from buying beds for girls who need them to stocking a family’s fridge with food, you don’t hesitate to show our community that you are human too.

As rewarding and fulfilling as this profession can be, we also accept the serious responsibility that our actions can change the lives of individuals and their families forever.

On Monday, May 25, a Minneapolis man, Mr. George Floyd, died after officers placed him into custody for suspected forgery and one officer kneeled on his neck. During the arrest, Mr. Floyd told officers he couldn’t breathe and bystanders asked them to get off his neck. These bystanders filmed the actions of the officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd's neck for approximately seven minutes. This video was very difficult for me to watch, as I’m sure it is for anyone.

The LPD has forbidden the technique used by this officer since at least the 1970s, and as a reminder, we have placed that information in a required re-training on eSign. Although I do not know the full circumstances of the incident, the footage I have seen is alarming. Mr. Floyd’s family should not have to experience the pain of seeing their loved one treated that way, nor should they have to watch his last breaths taken in that manner. These actions have resulted in riots and protests in Minneapolis, specifically around the MPD building.

We have spent many years building genuine relationships that value trust in our community, and our daily actions must continue to build these bridges. Every time you interact with someone, you have the potential to impact that person’s impression of our entire profession, just like the actions of the MPD officers have impacted so many people’s impressions of the police.

As we always do, we must ensure that every single individual we come into contact with is treated with respect and fairness, no matter what they look like or where they live. When someone is in your custody, you are completely responsible for their safety, health, and well-being. As you know, anytime someone in your custody alerts you to a medical issue, you must immediately request medical assistance. It is also your duty to intervene if you see another officer taking inappropriate action. If you have any questions about this, or about the associated training, please contact a supervisor immediately.

Thank you for the daily sacrifices you make for our community. I know you will continue to serve in the most professional manner at all times."


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