In a rarely seen display of indignation with people in their own profession, police across the country have taken to social media this week to publicly condemn the Minneapolis officers involved in the appalling custody death of George Floyd.
“There is no need to see more video,” said David Roddy, the police chief in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out,'" he tweeted. "There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this... turn it in.”
Roddy’s unprecedented language is being echoed across the U.S. as disappointed and outraged police officers urge authorities to punish the four cops involved in Monday’s horrific incident. Their statements stand in stark contrast to the typical silence or support for police following in-custody deaths — even as critics call their denunciation empty words.
Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died shortly after a white officer pressed his knee against his neck for more several minutes while the handcuffed suspect begged for air and repeatedly pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. The whole incident, which was prompted by a forgery investigation, was captured on video and the footage has sparked massive protests across the city and the country.
“Let me start this by saying... I AM SORRY,” said Anthony Johnson, an Ohio police officer known as the “dancing cop.”
“On behalf of every good cop out there... we apologize,” he wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday. “If you have ever been mistreated by the police... we are sorry. I’m sorry you had to see what you seen... feel what you felt... and live with the trauma caused by the those actions. Please accept this apology and know that those officers DO NOT speak for the majority of us."
In Georgia, meanwhile, Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats did not mince words calling for the Minneapolis officers to be criminally charged.
“I am deeply disturbed by the video of Mr. Floyd being murdered in the street with other officers there letting it go on,” he wrote on Facebook. “I can assure everyone, me or any of my deputies will never treat anyone like that as long as I’m Sheriff. This kind of brutality is terrible and it needs to stop. All Officers involved need to be arrested and charged immediately.”
But those words are being met with skepticism as the number of cops speaking out is still relatively small. Critics also say there’s much work to be done to dismantle the long-standing system of police racism in America.
“We’ve got to remember that it was not just Officer Chauvin who was sitting on George Floyd’s neck,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles.
The arresting officer, Derek Chauvin, was accompanied by three colleagues who watched Floyd beg for mercy and slowly stop moving but did nothing to stop it. Two of them were also on top of the dying man while another stood inches away.
All four were fired the following day, but no one has been charged.
Civil rights attorney and professor Gloria Browne-Marshall said she wouldn’t be a “cheerleader” for a “handful” of police officers who decided to voice outrage by one particular incident.
“Any minute progress is seen as miraculous because so little has been done for so long,” she said. “It’s nothing close to progress or what outrage would be taking place if it was a white man as the victim of this assault.”