Over the past several weeks, we have seen communities torn apart by violence and the grief and trauma that comes with it. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis brings out a lot of emotions in all of us. Disgust. Disappointment. Frustration. Sadness. Outrage. Mistrust. Anguish. His murder was a gross abuse of power and showed blatant disregard for a man’s life. The way in which Derek Chauvin acted is not the way any police officer should act and any officer who does has no business being a police officer. That is clear and indisputable.
The murder of George Floyd and the inaction of the three fellow officers shows us that, as a profession, we still have work to do. We must examine our policies and we must make changes that will promote accountability and transparency to help ensure senseless murders like this do not happen. Over recent weeks, we have seen repeated calls for change and policy reforms. As a response to the discussions that have taken place in the Arlington community, I instructed our department’s leadership team to review our use of force policy. Though this department has long had use of force standards in place that are far more advanced than the national standard, we identified areas where we could strengthen our policies. I was proud that Arlington was one of the first departments in the Commonwealth to enact an official duty to intervene requirement as part of our use of force policy. Though intervening in situations of misconduct is something I had always expected our officers to do whenever necessary, this policy shows our commitment to reform and accountability.
The command staff and I have been researching and meeting with vendors over the past few weeks with the ultimate intention of developing a body worn camera pilot program at APD. As has been shown many times in the past several years, body worn cameras are an invaluable tool of transparency and accountability for police departments and their communities. This department will continue to explore additional initiatives that I hope will help us begin to repair the trust that has been broken. I want APD to be part of the solution and I am committed to making changes that help to increase our validity in your eyes.
I know that George Floyd’s murder and a number of other incidents that have surfaced around the nation rightfully evoke frustration from communities, and especially among people of color, who experience discrimination and police brutality all too commonly in our world. I, along with everyone at APD, pledge to be your ally in action, not just in words. I will stand with you and support you in the fight for true justice and change. I also want to remind you that though images coming from protests around the country prompt mistrust of officers who are present at these gatherings, Arlington officers are there to protect those who are peacefully voicing their opinions. Attacks on protesters are not right and are not acceptable. We do not seek to silence. We seek to listen.
Police officers are protectors. They are supposed to be trustworthy. They are supposed to be fair. They are supposed to be there to help. Above all, they are supposed to do their jobs morally, ethically and honorably. When this does not happen, it is a stain on the profession. I have been a police officer for over 20 years, and George Floyd’s murder disgusts me.
My promise to the Arlington community is that we will continue to work to build trust between you and the police department. For decades APD has led the way with progressive policing, modern programs, advanced skills, ongoing training and more. We have worked hard in recent years to implement programs and services that build positive relationships between you and this department. These programs have allowed our officers to take action to help people in ways that already–and for many years–have gone far beyond their traditional enforcement capacity. I plan to continue and expand these programs, and I hope that you will continue to believe in your police department and the positive impact we work to have every day. I expect the highest from Arlington officers, as I know our community members do, and I want Arlington to always be a place where everyone feels safe and respected.
Chief of Police Juliann Flaherty