Many police departments in Chester County are reviewing and clarifying their procedures when taking people into custody following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Derek Chauvin, the former white police officer who was seen on video using his knee to pin down Floyd, a black man who later died, was arrested on murder charges in connection with the incident on Friday. It came after days of protests leading to looting, rioting, and the burning of a Minneapolis police station.
Police around the nation and law enforcement experts have condemned the way Floyd was restrained by Chauvin, who dug his knee into the man’s neck, saying no circumstances warrant such a dangerous technique. Three other officers who were nearby and could have intervened were also arrested.
Floyd, 46, was arrested Monday after an employee at a grocery store called police to accuse him of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. The cellphone video shows Floyd face-down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back, as Chauvin uses the knee restraint on his neck. Floyd was not resisting arrest, police said.
Coatesville Police Chief Jack W. Laufer has instructed his department to review training procedures on positional asphyxia, a condition where a person can't get enough air to breathe due to the positioning of his or her body, and can lead to the sudden death of individuals in police custody. In addition, shift supervisors have been ordered to review and discus the entire incident and the aftermath as it unfolds, with officers at each roll call, he said.
"From what we have witnessed on the countless loops of the video showing the arrest of Mr. Floyd, it is apparent that we as a profession failed to provide the most basic protections afforded to all citizens under our constitution," Laufer said. "This failure should not have been acceptable in Minneapolis, and will not be accepted here in the City of Coatesville. Those who follow our Facebook page know that we pride ourselves on our ability to establish strong ties within our community. We are proud to say that we don't police our community as much as we partner with it."
Laufer called Floyd's death "senseless."
"The senseless loss of any life is hard to understand or necessarily comprehend regardless of circumstances; however, it is particularly difficult when it occurs at the hands of those whose communities depend upon to always do what is right, our police officers," Laufer said in a message that was posted to the City of Coatesville's Facebook page.
The vast majority of police officers nationwide are law-abiding and good, Laufer said.
"I firmly believe that it is only the actions of a few officers nationally that tarnish our profession for the thousands of officers who truly believe in doing what is right," he said. "It is these officers who firmly believe in all that is good within the communities we serve, and would rather lay down their lives as others have done before them, rather than swerve from their path of duty."
On Facebook, Laufer was praised for his proactive measure.
"Coatesville Police Dept. always setting the standard for excellence. We thank you for your example," said Penny Perdick.
Said Sal Viscardo: "This is what leadership looks like."
Said Tony DeTitta: "The Minneapolis police department could learn a lot from your department. My prayers go out to George's family. This never should have happened."