COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Leaders of the law enforcement community in South Carolina have issued statements against the actions of officers in Minneapolis leading up to the death of George Floyd.
“My reaction is like what any citizens’ reaction would be. I watched it in dismay and just disgusted,” said Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook. “It was hard to watch. It’s an action by a law enforcement officer that is absolutely inconsistent with any training or procedures.”
Floyd died in police custody after he became unresponsive when a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
It was captured on video and has caused national outrage. Floyd said several times he couldn’t breathe.
“It’s hard really to put into words. It was just disgusting to watch. What I can tell you is there is no training that we receive that teaches us to restrict anyone’s airway,” said Holbrook.
The officer was seen on video pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes, even after Floyd stopped speaking and moving.
The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy trains law enforcement officers in our state.
According to Bruce Hancock, an instructor, officers in South Carolina are taught from day one in the academy that once an individual on the ground is restrained with handcuffs, the pressure to their back or neck should be removed.
“Even though the person’s airways may be open, the individual may complain because really they can’t breathe very well because the chest is not moving properly to allow air into the lungs,” said Hancock. “So to keep that from occurring, we simply have them roll over on their side and sit them up.”
Thursday, Ryan Alphin, the executive director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers’ Association and South Carolina Police Chiefs’ Association issued the following statement condemning the actions of that officer:
Chief Holbrook mentioned two main issues he noticed during the arrest in Minnesota.
“There was a complete disregard for the sanctity of life and there was total failure in the duty to intervene by a fellow police officer,” said Holbrook.
It’s a duty Hancock said is also taught on day one of the academy.
“We talk about de-escalation. You step in and you take control of the situation before another officer gets themselves in trouble,” added Hancock.
Chief Holbrook also said that law enforcement has made tremendous strides when it comes to de-escalation, but he explained that just one incident like this can set the profession back.
Sheriff Leon Lott of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department also issued a statement calling the officers’ actions “inexcusable”:
Four officers were fired from the force. No charges have been filed at this point in the investigation.