The police chiefs of both Londonderry and Derry are speaking out following an incident in Minneapolis where a black man died after a police stop and days and night of subsequent protests across the nation.
Chiefs William Hart and Edward Garone, representing Londonderry and Derry respectively, released statements with their own personal reactions to the nation's situation and how they viewed their own respective departments in this challenging time.
Hart took time at a Town Council meeting June 1 to read his statement — words he said he felt he wanted to say to address the "murder of George Floyd, the terrible nights of rage and violence since and what it means for your police department."
He began his statement by saying on the day Floyd died, "a man wearing a badge who had taken an oath to serve and protect the people who live and work in his community, Minneapolis, Minnesota, murdered one of that community’s citizens. As that person lay suffocating in the street, his dying words were unfortunately familiar, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
Hart said sadly, those words have been heard before, as an anthem of anger and frustration. Hart wanted the family of George Floyd to accept his personal condolences.
"I hope that George Floyd’s family, his friends, those who loved George Floyd and cared for him can accept my personal condolence for this criminal act, one that brings shame and hopefully disgust to everyone who, like me wears that badge, who like me has taken that oath," the chief said in his statement. "As a police officer and as a former county prosecutor I am ashamed."
Hart continued by saying the Londonderry Police Department does everything in its power to make safety and success key, from a rigorous hiring process, career-long training, strong well-coached supervision and the building of a successful policing culture every day, over and over again.
"We look for people who want to serve, who understand that service is not in the telling, it is in the listening, for whom decency is not just a word, rather it is a way of living," Hart said. "We look for people who can carry out their mission, while always understanding that a lot of bad things happened for all of us to be here. We look for people who aspire to professionalism in this noble calling, that may at any moment require your life, but always, in every moment requires kindness, empathy, decency, always puts paramount importance on the people part of people skills."
Hart said his department also seeks people who are not defensive, not name callers, not always making excuses, not inflaming, but rather calming.
"Once we have made that hire, we train, and train again, and then again, for one’s entire career," Hart said. "Each day of work, for all of us who serve you, is aspirational in nature: we each aspire to be the very best. Most days we succeed."
Hart concluded with remarks about how he grew up, seeing the challenges faced for generations.
"This is not the first time an unarmed black man was murdered, please let it be the last, enough is enough," Hart said. "We can do better. We must."
Chief Garone's statement emphasized his department "does not condone, nor do we train our staff to use restraint techniques as were used in the arrest of Mr. Floyd."
"The videos we have seen are extremely difficult to watch since the viewer has the same reaction to seeing what transpires, as those that were present in person and were pleading for the police officer to get off Mr. Floyd," Garone said in his statement. "I understand a video often tells only a portion of a story, but I find it impossible to imagine a scenario that the officer could use as a basis to justify his actions. I, as you are, am sickened by the actions we see on the part of the officers that were present."
Garone said he felt it was important to remind the community of the police department's mission statement, a statement of values that guide police actions and training as services are provided to the public every day.
"The mission of the Derry Police Department is to protect life and property, enforce the laws of society, maintain order in the community and to assist the public at large in a manner consistent with the rights and dignity of all persons as provided for by law and under the Constitutions of the United States of America and the State of New Hampshire," Garone said in his statement. "It is my promise to you that we will continue to police Derry with those sentiments at the forefront of every action we take."
The full texts of both statements were posted by each department on Facebook.