By: Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis and Suwana Kirkland

We watched in horror and disbelief as a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes during an arrest. Recorded on a bystander’s cellphone, Mr. Floyd is heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,”  pleading for help, and then, “I’m about to die,” reminiscent of  Eric Garner before his death in 2014 when a police officer put him in a chokehold.

Our communities are hurting right now, and we know that justice must be fair. Justice must be transparent. Justice must be equal. George Floyd deserves justice.

While the Minneapolis Police Department’s swift decision to address the officers’ actions with termination, a step in the right direction, organizations know beyond a doubt that there’s still work to be done at the local and national levels to put a stop to these egregious acts of injustice. Groups such as the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the National Black Police Association (NBPA) are stepping up and taking the lead   for impacting the change our country desperately needs and deserves from law enforcement.

The actions of all four officers involved in the incident are clear violations of policing practices NOBLE advocates as national standards. Both NOBLE and NBPA encourage all law enforcement leaders to develop and implement 21st century policing practices for their agencies, including:

  • Mandatory de-escalation training for all officers;
  • Prohibition of all physical restraint maneuvers on or above the neck unless an officer is met with a situation where deadly physical force is justified and authorized to prevent the use or imminent use of deadly physical force against the officer or another person;
  • Requirement that all officers render medical aid to all people;
  • Requirement that officers intervene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another officer when force is inappropriately applied or is no longer required. 

These and related operating principles that we support must be implemented, trained and enforced throughout agencies. These practices have been proven effective, increase public trust, improve public safety, and protect officers and the community. The margin of error is literally one that separates life from death, and we emphasize the sanctity of life. 

Policies and plans are essential foundations for reform, but effective training to assure policies are applied is equally critical to successful implementation of long-lasting change. Police departments across the country must modernize training to include techniques and scenarios-based learning models to assure officers can translate new practices directly into their daily work.

If Minnesota is serious about change, they must be decisive about police culpability in Mr. Floyd’s death; Minnesota, and departments across the country, must be resolute about revisions to police practices and proper evidence-based training.

In February, the Minnesota Officer-Involved Deadly Force Encounters Working Group released a report with recommendations to reduce fatal citizen and law enforcement encounters and endorsed NOBLE’s The Law and Your Community initiative for statewide implementation. The nationally recognized, interactive training program for young people ages 13-18 is designed to improve their communications with law enforcement officers and officers understanding about the communities they serve.

Reform and effective crime fighting are inextricably linked, and the need to deliver both right now will save lives. NOBLE and NPBA have and will continue to work with law enforcement and community leaders to improve the partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. We must hold our officers accountable to protect our communities and each other from danger. This appalling event reinforces our role in the significant work ahead of us as we fight for justice and fair judicial outcomes for every community in America.

-30-

Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis (President@NobleNatl.net) is the 42nd president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Durham, North Carolina police chief. Suwana Kirkland currently serves as President for the Minnesota chapter of the National Black Police Association and is a Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

About the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

Since 1976, The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) has served as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action. NOBLE represents over 3,000 members internationally, who are primarily African American chief executive officers of law enforcement agencies at federal, state, county and municipal levels, other law enforcement administrators, and criminal justice practitioners. For more information, visit www.NOBLENational.org.

About the National Black Police Association

The National Black Police Association (NBPA) is a national organization of sub-regional African American Police Associations who are dedicated to promoting justice, fairness, and effectiveness in law enforcement. The NBPA has several chartered organizations throughout the United States and has associate members abroad, in Canada, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.