Image courtesy Madison365’s Facebook livestream
In a virtual town hall this morning, Dane County law enforcement officials publicly condemned the murder of George Floyd. The town hall was streamed on Facebook by the Dane County Boys and Girls Club and Madison365.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck, slowly suffocating him. Floyd was unarmed and repeatedly pleaded for help from bystanders, who captured the killing on camera.
Among those bystanders were several of Chauvin’s fellow officers. Since Floyd’s death, the officers involved in the killing have been fired. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also called for criminal charges against Chauvin.
In the town hall this morning, Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney condemned the three officers who stood by while Floyd pleaded for help.
“The real failure was that there were three additional police officers who heard Mr. Floyd’s plea and those three didn’t respond. They didn’t react,” he said.
According to Michael Johnson, President and CEO of the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, the town hall this morning allowed black community members to establish an open dialogue with police leadership. Johnson initially called for the meeting and reached out to police leadership to organize the discussion.
“There’s voices that don’t appreciate what we did today. That don’t think that a town hall meeting is productive, and I respect those views, while I disagree with them. I know that there’s some that don’t think there should be conversations like this and that we should immediately go to protests and rioting and not lift up the voices of white supremacy, but people are free to organize how they choose to organize, and I ask that they respect the way we organize as well,” he says.
The video of Floyd’s death has circulated heavily on social media, drawing widespread condemnation from black leaders, law enforcement leaders and politicians around the country. In a press release issued today, the Dane County Chief of Police Association called the murder, “reprehensible and inexcusable.”
Henry Sanders, CEO and Publisher of Madison365 and host of today’s town hall, says the forum allowed local police leaders to speak out against brutality. He says it’s important for police leadership to understand the concerns community members have.
“We thought it was important for the officers to come out and acknowledge that it was wrong, because if we can’t acknowledge it was wrong, we can’t move forward with trust,” he says. “We wanted them to do it to let the people in the community know that the officers understand the pain the people have, but also for the people who work for them to understand that it is not okay and that behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Madison and Dane County have had their own issues with police brutality. In 2015, 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny. Like Floyd, Robinson was also unarmed.
In October of last year, amidst a broader structural review of the MPD, a City of Madison review committee recommended 33 changes to practices involving force, including de-escalation and conducting investigations into use of force situations.
But, Johnson says one of the biggest steps police can take towards reparation is listening to the concerns of black families and creating more opportunities for dialog, like the virtual town hall.
“People are pissed, people are mad, people are angry, and I feel the exact same way. Our emotions are all over the place, and rightfully so,” he says.