Lethbridge’s interim chief of police said the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a “particularly strong reminder” of the “special responsibility” police officers have for the communities they serve.
“All of us have been shaken by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer,” Chief Scott Woods said.
“More than the deeply personal grief of Mr. Floyd’s family, this inexcusable event serves as a sobering reminder of the duty we all have to respect and honour every person in our community.”
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody after a violent arrest. Video of the incident showed the arresting officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd could be heard calling out, “I can’t breathe.”
The officer has since been fired and is facing charges of manslaughter and third-degree murder.
Woods said the situation serves as a reminder for police officers to “treat everyone with the respect and dignity they have an inherent right to expect as a human being.”
Woods went on to praise the work being done by the Lethbridge Police Service, saying that living up up to the standards of charactered, principled policing “does not happen by accident.”
“It requires deliberate action. The honour and integrity of the police service must be fought for and protected over time, and never taken for granted.”
Woods said there are many measures the LPS follows and promotes to ensure equal treatment and respect under the law.
“Our policies are reviewed regularly to affirm proper policing values,” Woods said.
“Officers are continually trained and the values of principled policing are reinforced. Relationships with various communities and community leaders are encouraged and cultivated.”
Woods, however, did recognize that police officers are humans who can make mistakes.
“Sometimes, individual police officers will fail in their duties, but that is a function of the frailties of human nature — it does not reflect the values and duty of the police service to the community,” he said.
“If such failures do occur, the important thing then becomes making sure the offending officers are held to account. That is how respect for the community is maintained, even in the face of failure.”
Woods ended his statement by saying that while no organization can claim perfection, he is proud of the work that LPS has done and continues to do.