Park City, Summit County top lawmen condemn technique used in death of George Floyd
The top law enforcement officials in Park City and surrounding Summit County are blunt and in agreement when they talk about the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
The force that was used against Floyd that led to his death was improper and should not be used in police work, Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter and Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said in interviews.
The Park City and Summit County agencies only occasionally are required to use force against an uncooperative person or suspect, but the chief and the sheriff criticized the technique used in Minneapolis.
“Absolutely inexcusable. That is not a technique we teach,” Martinez said, adding, “At least that’s how we’re trained here in Utah.”
He said kneeling on a suspect’s neck, as was seen in footage from the scene in Minneapolis, is not one of the steps in the so-called continuum of force police agencies use. The continuum outlines the various methods of force, including physical force and firearms, a police agency uses. The sheriff said some of the methods include nonlethal options like Tasers and pepper spray.
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Martinez said the Sheriff’s Office teaches deputies to use only reasonable and necessary force when required. Once somebody is restrained, the deputies begin to de-escalate the scene, he said. He said the agency prefers not to use physical force since it creates a “substantial risk” to the deputy as well as the suspect.
The sheriff said he spoke to the command staff and sergeants after the death of Floyd, and meetings with members of the office about the topic started on Tuesday. Martinez said none of the members of the command staff nor the sergeants saw the force used against Floyd as being warranted.
“We’re under constant scrutiny. We’re better than this. These are not the tactics we employ,” Martinez said as he described the comments to the command staff and sergeants, adding that he also told them to be safe, strong and proud.
The police chief, meanwhile, said he took notes as he watched footage from Minneapolis, saying a basic premise of an arrest that requires force is to use the least amount of force that is necessary. Carpenter said Floyd was clearly subdued. He said there was no legitimate reason “to be kneeling” on Floyd’s neck or head.
“Clearly that’s not an acceptable practice,” Carpenter said. “There’s no excuse for it.”
Carpenter said the other officers at the scene in Minneapolis should have intervened to stop the one who was kneeling on Floyd.
“There was no reasonable purpose … for kneeling on the neck,” he said.
Carpenter said he had not sent a message to his officers by late in the week about the death, saying workload has been heavy as he reinforced law enforcement in Salt Lake City during demonstrations there and then planned for a demonstration that was held at Park City High School. He said he plans to share information with the officers shortly about acceptable use of force. All officers are trained on use of force, de-escalation, implicit bias and recognizing mental health issues in people they encounter, he said.
“We absolutely condemn the behavior,” the chief said about the death in Minneapolis.
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