Police chief, sheriff issue statements on Floyd death

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  • Left, Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley; right, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper. Background, marchers in Fernandina Beach on June 1, 2020.  File and Julia Roberts/News-Leader
    Left, Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley; right, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper. Background, marchers in Fernandina Beach on June 1, 2020. File and Julia Roberts/News-Leader
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From Police Chief James Hurley:

Police departments all across the United States, and certainly here in Fernandina Beach, have worked diligently to improve community relations and build trust through open communication. We have developed action steps designed to improve training and capitalize on the latest technology and proven ideology. We have listened to community leaders and we have taught de-escalation tactics and outfitted our officers with in-car and body-worn cameras.

We have educated our police officers to be sensitive to mental health issues and homelessness, drug dependency and patterns of domestic violence. And we have focused on use of force and dealt with abuses swiftly and decisively. Our elected officials have backed our efforts by supporting budgets that provide for proper staffing, equipment and training so that our policies and procedures can be followed without obstacles or confusion. Our Mission Statement is grounded in the core belief that we respect human dignity at all times.

I want to assure our community that we do not tolerate the brutal behavior demonstrated in Minneapolis which led to the death of George Floyd. And, while I am rightfully careful in most cases to rely on the facts, which can only be determined by competent review, I find it relatively easy to denounce the actions of those officers involved in this case based solely on the clear and abundant video evidence. I usually refrain from making public comment about incendiary incidents taking place in other jurisdictions. In general terms I know that I would not
appreciate others making judgments about my officers without all the relevant facts.

This case is different and especially egregious as it causes citizens, including many veteran police officers, to question a police culture that could allow such a situation to occur in the first place. I know that police chiefs from cities large and small are outraged by the behavior of the officers in MN and I join them in expressing my disappointment and condemning the horrific actions of a few that serve to undermine the good works of police officers all across America.

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From Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper:

We join the Florida Sheriffs Association in condemning the actions and, as important, the inactions of the officers of the Minneapolis Police Department that were involved in the horrific death of Mr. George Floyd. We offer our condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family, friends and to his community.

The actions and inactions of these officers in Minneapolis are unacceptable for any human beings to engage in and especially for our law enforcement officers who are entrusted with authority by our communities and are rightfully held to a higher level and standard of responsibility and accountability.

What the police officer did makes no sense and can’t be justified no matter what. The officer used deadly force in a situation where there was no justification. The other officers present should have intervened. These officers’ actions are not representative of sheriff’s deputies in Florida or the law enforcement profession, and the actions are inconsistent with law enforcement policies and training. As leaders, it is imperative that we demand accountability in order to maintain trust in the communities we serve and we stand with others in seeking that accountability.

In Nassau County, we strive to develop community-wide partnerships and to always be exploring ways to improve so that our community can thrive and everyone can call Nassau County a great and safe place.

I constantly remind our employees to always do what is right and to be courteous, honest, ethical, trustworthy, professional, as well as follow our policies, procedures and the law. And to never do anything that brings disrespect to them, their family or our agency.

Law enforcement and our entire community must always work together to make Nassau a better place for everyone.