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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: From Police Chief Michael Brown
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: From Police Chief Michael Brown

Last week, I too watched a video that shocked me in many ways. Personally, and professionally, I was appalled at what I saw. I witnessed a homicide at the hands of a cop, and the victim of that homicide was Mr. George Floyd. I had a very difficult time processing what I saw in that video, and it brought back a flood of memories from my youth in the 1960s and various times throughout my career working with cops. I have publicly shared the following perspective with community leaders and in open conversations with the public over the past few days.

There is no excuse for the violence I observed in that video. Human life is to be treasured, not discounted or taken for granted. My parents taught me that at an early age and it was reinforced through my faith. Yet, I struggled with the images I saw in the video. I was not alone in the thoughts I was harboring. I spoke with many of the members of the Alexandria Police Department and discovered they shared the same feelings – mostly anger.

My anger at Mr. Floyd’s death comes from several directions. First, he was a human being and another soul. No individual should suffer these consequences in the manner in which Mr. Floyd did. Mr. Floyd also was killed by a police officer. Many people will make the connection that police officers do this all the time. Yet, I do know that officers I have had the privilege to serve with are, like me, very angry at the police officer that killed Mr. Floyd and the other officers who failed to respond to Mr. Floyd’s pleas for help. Finally, I am confounded by the fact that this homicide has once again peeled off the bandage on a long-existing issue of equity in our society, one that has continued without adequate intervention.

It is time now for us to witness the justice that Mr. Floyd and his family deserve. They need to know that many law enforcement professionals are appalled at what they witnessed. They also need to know that I and others in the law enforcement community are willing to help address the societal equity issues that are, once again, in the forefront of the discussion. It is my sincere hope that we finally address these issues – in policing, in the criminal justice system, and the socioeconomic arena. We need to heal!

The Alexandria Police Department is proud to be a 21st Century Policing agency because it is all based on respect for others. We do and have done a lot of things to move forward as a professional organization. One thing I consistently ask myself and others in the Department is “do you have the heart to be a police officer”? That heart is to serve, that heart is to understand, that heart is to have compassion, and that heart is to protect all that need protection. It requires sacrifice, but that is the calling of professional policing and is what the public demands from us. The Alexandria Police Department employees I have spoken to know and understand this and they are committed to these principles at many levels. That is why the tragic death of Mr. Floyd affects many of them so deeply.

The Alexandria Police Department has worked extremely hard for a long time to become a professional policing agency and has been recognized as such for a number of years. Yet, we also know we can always improve and must be receptive to making changes that make sense for us and the community. However, we are but one part of the underlying issues raised following the death of Mr. Floyd. I pray that America will stay focused on Mr. Floyd and the many victims of racial inequity that have come before him, so that they will not be lost again to short attention spans or the many distractions of our time. We need to do more!

Michael L. Brown

Chief, Alexandria Police Department