Area officials are condemning the killing of an unarmed African American man by a White Minneapolis police officer.
George Floyd died Monday after an officer held a knee to his neck for multiple minutes after responding to a forgery report. Minneapolis police say Floyd matched a suspect description and that he “physically resisted” officers after they removed him from his vehicle, though the officer seen restraining Floyd — Derek Chauvin — has been charged with third degree murder and fired Tuesday.
Nationwide protests and incidents of rebellion ensued after a bystander video of Floyd telling officers he could not breathe before becoming unresponsive circulated online. RCPD Director Dennis Butler called it “horrific” during a Friday special Riley County Law Enforcement Agency board meeting.
“I had the same gut reaction as when Walter Scott was murdered by a police officer in South Carolina and when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Georgia by vigilantes and then law enforcement and prosecutors were slow to do their jobs,” Butler told the Law Board. “There’s more examples I could cite.”
Butler says he does not tolerate willful or malicious mistreatment of citizens, but says it’s reasonable for people — particularly African American and other minority communities — to wonder if something similar could occur in Riley County. Butler says extensive review is conducted for every local use of force and response to resistance by RCPD officers to ensure such events do not take place.
“These are only words, so I ask that you judge us by what we do,” says Butler. “Know that we understand the pain many experience when watching the people sworn to protect them do the opposite.”
Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi later released a statement and spoke to KMAN on the subject as well, calling Floyd’s killing “brutal,” “senseless,” and preventable.
“It is not lost on me how difficult it is to talk about race. It is not lost on me how institutional structures have perpetuated racism. It is not lost on me that it is not enough to be non-racist,” Reddi says. “But it is important to be anti-racist. And it is not lost on me that black lives matter.”
Reddi says work to reduce bias and address racism within the community and Law Board was already occurring, but reiterated commitment to such initiatives. Additionally, speaking with KMAN she called on families, schools and government officials to have tough conversations about race and for the entire public to continue working to build an inclusive Manhattan community.
“I feel a lot of pain and I really just wish I could hug all of my community members in Manhattan and around the United States,” she says. “We have a long way to go.”
“It is both an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Manhattan. Together, we will bridge the racial divide.”
Read their full remarks below:
I know Manhattan is a community built on love, trust, and caring. We look out for each other in times of need and welcome strangers with a friendly smile.
Right now, I see, hear, and feel the pain from our African-American families. I condemn the senseless, tragic, and brutal death of George Floyd. His death, along with the senseless and tragic deaths of Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Ahmed Aubrey, and so many others could have and should have been prevented.
It is not lost on me how difficult it is to talk about race. It is not lost on me how institutional structures have perpetuated racism. It is not lost on me that it is not enough to be non-racist, but it is important to be anti-racist. It is not lost on me that black lives matter.
We must continue to build an inclusive community where all are respected and treated with dignity. We are building relationships and breaking down barriers, but we have more work ahead of us.
The difficult discussions need to continue with families, friends, schools, religious communities, and elected officials.
I want to reassure you that this is a community that cares for you and about you.
It is both an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Manhattan. Together, we will bridge the racial divide.
Mayor, City of Manhattan
I don’t claim to know how everyone in Riley County feels after watching the horrific video of George Floyd in the last moments of his life, but I had the same gut reaction as when Walter Scott was murdered by a police officer in South Carolina and when Ahmed Aubrey was murdered in Georgia by vigilantes and then law enforcement and prosecutors were slow to do their jobs. There’s more examples I could cite.
You should know that we do not teach that arrest tactic and we do not tolerate it. We use an extensive review process for every use of force in response to resistance and every time we warn someone that we will use force.
I do believe that it is reasonable for people; especially minority citizens, to wonder if this could happen here in Riley County, or if they should trust members of the Riley County Police Department to not abuse their authority in a similar fashion. It is easy for me to say that you should trust us, but what really matters most is what we do every day in our service to you.
I ask you to trust that members of the Riley County Police Department work hard every day to earn and maintain your confidence in us, but we know that it can evaporate in an instance. My officers and I know that and we never want to have happen here what has happened in the places I just mentioned. We try to prevent it by the kind of people we hire, how we train them, and our expectations of how they treat people, including each other. I have said for years that if we treat our officers well they are more likely to do the same in their service to others. When I was appointed to this position I also told my employees that we will make mistakes and we will get through them, but I could not and would not tolerate willful or malicious mistreatment of citizens, arrestees, inmates or each other.
Again, these are only words so judge us by what we do and know that we understand the pain many experience when watching the people sworn to protect them do the opposite.
– An open letter from Director Dennis Butler to the Riley County Community