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Police chief working hard on building trust

AP PHOTO In this Monday file frame from video provided by Darnella Frazier, a Minneapolis officer — Derek Chauvin — kneels on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed man who was pleading that he could not breathe, in Minneapolis. Police around the U.S. and law enforcement experts are broadly condemning the way Floyd, who died in police custody, was restrained by a Minneapolis officer who dug his knee into the man’s neck.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has impacted law enforcement across the country, and members are speaking out against it — including Marshalltown Police Department Chief Mike Tupper.

Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis on Monday, with the knee of a police officer on his neck. An almost 10-minute video was taken of Floyd begging to breathe, the officer — Derek Chauvin — kneeling on his neck with hands in his pockets and other fellow officers standing by.

The video made Tupper disgusted.

“It was horrific,” he said. “I am shocked anybody in the world would think it is OK to do that to another human being. What I saw from law enforcement in that video is inconsistent with training and protocol. I can’t believe he acted the way he did and three other police officers stood by and watched. There was no justification or reason.”

Tupper said Floyd’s death and the behavior of the officers was not a training issue.

“They are not trained to do that,” he said. “It was excessive force and they need to be held accountable.”

Chauvin was arrested and taken into custody on Friday. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, but Tupper feels there is enough evidence on the video.

Some arguments have been made that Chauvin was restraining Floyd, but Tupper said that is not the case.

“I can think of no circumstance where that is acceptable,” he said. “There is no legitimate law enforcement tactic in that video. Somebody surrendered, was handcuffed and in compliance and begging for his life. I saw no reason for the officer to continue to hold Floyd’s neck and hold him down.”

Members of the public have acted with hostility toward the Minneapolis Police Department. Crowds threw fireworks at police and then stormed the building. Officers abandoned the building after Mayor Jacob Frey gave personnel orders to leave. The Third Precinct building was set on fire.

Elsewhere in the country – Denver, Albuquerque, Windermere, Fla., Fontana, Calif., Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., Petal, Miss. and New York – protests have started. Tupper said he has not received reports on hostility toward his officers as a result of Floyd’s death.

“We are fortunate to live in Marshalltown where we value public safety,” he said. “Certainly we have people who disagree with law enforcement, but we have worked hard to build relationships with the community.”

Putting out a message of unity, trust and communication to improve those relationships is important to the Marshalltown police chief. He feels the department has done a good job with that and people are not afraid to call and speak with him about what happened in the Minnesota metropolitan city.

“People have asked about their concerns, about body cameras,” Tupper said. “It is normal for people to reach out to the police chief and make sure things like that do not happen here.”

He said ironically, his department had a training session shortly before Floyd died. The training was on the proper way to use force.

“We want to make sure our officers have the latest training and can handle situations lawfully and confidently,” Tupper said.

All Marshalltown Police Department officers use body cameras and car cameras when on duty. Tupper also spoke to officers after Floyd died and he is confident that they will step up and prevent someone from getting hurt, unlike the three officers in Minneapolis who stood by and did nothing.

Tupper said it is important for law enforcement to open their eyes as to what is happening in other parts of the country. He said the overwhelming majority of law enforcement members are good people.

“They are decent, honorable and they do make a difference in their communities,” Tupper said. “We can build trust. We can do a better job.”

Contact Lana Bradstream at lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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