Sunday, 31 May 2020 15:29

Richmond County sheriff, state law enforcement associations condemn actions and inaction by Minneapolis police; seek to restore trust in communities

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Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons. Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons. RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons has issued a statement regarding the situation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd died after being held down by three police officers, one of whom kept his knee on Floyd's neck even after Floyd loss consciousness.

In his statement, Clemmons condemns the actions of now-former officer Derek Chauvin, as well as the inaction taken by the other officers involved who did nothing to prevent the death, even as bystanders pleaded for them to ease up and check for a pulse, as seen on a video that went viral on social media.

"As the sheriff of Richmond County, and a career law enforcement professional, I unequivocally condemn the actions,and/or non-actions of any law enforcement officers involved in misconduct or criminal activity.

We in the law enforcement community strive to foster good relationships in our community.

As we protect and serve, we do more than arrest individuals. We mentor youth, participate in community events, read to children to help raise their literacy levels, and work with our faith-based community.

It is unfortunate that this event has happened. Please consider that we have great law enforcement officers in our county, state, and nation. Please do not lump us in with what bad actors do.

In the death of George Floyd, the actions of these officers were complicit, and reprehensible, and downright criminal.

I believe in the letter of the law which should be followed and complied with by the all citizens and law enforcement.

When all else fails, that’s the time our judicial system is called upon, and tasked with rendering a decision of guilt or innocence as it pertains to due process.

This event is a continued sentiment, as to why the trust and respect for law enforcement has deteriorated over the years, and why the fear of the African-American community exists as it pertains to law enforcement encounters. The fear is real.

I pray for the family of Mr. George Floyd, the citizens and businesses of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the law enforcement community that live up to their oath and creed of respect, courage,dedication and service to protect and serve their communities.

There is a book written, by fellow Sheriff Hubert Peterkin titled 'How To Stop For a Cop' that reminds Law Enforcement Officials to always do the right thing and to remember their oath."

In addition to serving as sheriff of Richmond County, Clemmons was recently appointed to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. He served as president of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association from July 2018-July 2019 and is currently chairman of the organization’s executive committee; and he has been on the N.C. Sentencing Commission since 2011.

The N.C. Sheriff's Association also released a statement Friday— signed by Clemmons, association President Sheriff John Ingram V, of Brunswick County, and other members — addressing Floyd's death:

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association stands for the protection of the rights of all citizens. The sheriffs of North Carolina expect all law enforcement officers to conduct themselves professionally and lawfully at all times. These higher standards of conduct include reserving the use of force, especially deadly force, for those times when its use is absolutely necessary and lawful.

While we are not privy to the full investigation, what we have seen in the video of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota is unacceptable. The video clearly shows unprofessional and egregious conduct by law enforcement officers. This type of law enforcement conduct cannot be tolerated and must be swiftly addressed by the law enforcement community and the criminal justice system.

Part of the mission of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association is to provide education and training to sheriffs and their personnel. The law enforcement conduct displayed in this video is inexcusable and totally contrary to the training provided to law enforcement officers in North Carolina.

As sheriffs, we strive to build relationships with everyone in our communities. These relationships are built on mutual respect between officers and their community. It is by our conduct that law enforcement officers earn the respect of the public we are sworn to serve. This type of egregious misconduct by a few officers erodes the respect citizens have for all officers. Therefore, when law enforcement officers violate laws or policy, we expect them to immediately be held accountable. We, the members of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, will tolerate nothing less.

We extend our deepest sympathies to George Floyd, his family, the citizens and businesses of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the law enforcement community that live up to their oath and creed of respect, courage, dedication, and service to protect and serve their community.

Likewise, the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police released a similar statement:

The untimely death of Mr. George Floyd of Minnesota is deeply disturbing to the police executives of this state and should be of great concern to every citizen across this nation.

The NCACP fully supports the swift and timely actions by Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department to terminate the officers involved in this case. The actions of the officers involved appear without merit, justification, and displayed an absence of the very basic sense of compassion and empathy for the life of Mr. George Floyd.

The members of the NCACP have worked tirelessly to foster relationships in all communities in which we serve. Unfortunately, the actions by the officers in this incident were not only horrific in nature, but appeared to be criminally intentional. This is yet another incident where unacceptable police behavior has ruptured the fabric of public trust by law enforcement actions. The law enforcement profession must always adhere to the standard of fair treatment, dignity, and respect towards all individuals we encounter each and every day.

The NCACP is encouraged by the prudent investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Any lack of accountability will continue to erode community trust and further raise suspicion and resentment toward law enforcement. When actions deviate from that standard, we must hold officers accountable for their actions to restore legitimacy.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the NCACP, we offer our sincere sympathy and condolences to the Floyd family during this most difficult time.

Clemmons' statement was made Friday afternoon before news broke that Chauvin was charged in Floyd's death. Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and was being held on $500,000 bail, according to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

According to the criminal complaint against Chauvin, published by the Star Tribune, Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Read the entire criminal complaint here.

Three other officers involved in the incident were also fired.

Protests in the city turned to riots, with businesses being looted, vandalized and some burned. Subsequent riots have broken out all over the country, including several cities in North Carolina. Many rioters have reportedly been from out of state.