Several suburban Philadelphia police chiefs have released statements on the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week after a police officer held him down by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Yesterday, Whitemarsh Township’s Chief of Police Christopher Ward did so as well saying that he believes it is the responsibility of “all police leaders, whether the message is to defend unpopular actions of police officers, or, as in the case of George Floyd, bring attention to harmful and hurtful actions by officers whose poor decisions tarnish the profession.”
Below is the statement from Chief Ward:
Certain events in policing, whether involving police action or inaction, evoke such a depth of emotion that I feel compelled to address them. I believe this to be the responsibility of all police leaders, whether the message is to defend unpopular actions of police officers, or, as in the case of George Floyd, bring attention to harmful and hurtful actions by officers whose poor decisions tarnish the profession. I am disturbed by Mr. Floyd’s death. It was preventable and should not have happened.
That being said, we cannot shy away from having courageous conversations and dialogue. It is through these exchanges that we hear other people’s stories and perspectives and learn to empathize with one another. Historically, the law enforcement profession has contributed to the marginalization of many disadvantaged groups, including African Americans. It is the responsibility of current law enforcement leaders to ensure that this does not continue to occur.
The Whitemarsh Township Police Department partners with community groups and leaders to ensure that we continue to be a learning organization. It has been and will remain our culture. We value and depend upon our community’s engagement with our department. These partnerships have allowed us to have meaningful dialogue with groups who have experienced difficult relationships with law enforcement in the past. They have also enhanced our ability to provide training for our officers on important topics such as implicit bias and principled policing, and to engage local community members to participate in training.
Police officers have a duty to uphold the law. I expect our officers, myself included, to apply the law in a way that prioritizes and respects the sanctity of life. That includes the duty to intervene when officers are acting outside of the law or policy. It is our policy and our moral obligation. We are not perfect and we make mistakes, but we police each other at every rank and we swiftly and thoroughly investigate any allegations of wrong-doing with transparency. Accountability builds professionalism.
I am proud of the officers of the Whitemarsh Township Police Department. I am exposed every day to the high moral standards, respect and empathy they demonstrate. We, as sworn officers, are granted the authority to protect our community. We understand that we must do so with humanity, empathy and fairness to maintain our public trust. The men and women in blue who serve our community are the best at what they do and I am saddened they will be painted with a broad brush. But they understand that they represent all police officers and they shoulder that responsibility.
Christopher P. Ward
Chief of Police
Whitemarsh Township Police Department