The death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota, and the resulting protests, have created morale issues within police ranks, one local police chief says.
Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone, at a City Council meeting Tuesday, said a police officer’s wife had him park his patrol car in the garage instead of the driveway as usual because she didn’t feel safe with a police vehicle in plain view.
“I’ve been doing this 30 plus years and it used to be people wanted a police car parked in their neighborhood,” he said. “It made them feel safe. And now you’ve got the wife of a police officer says, ‘Honey don’t bring that car home. I’m afraid for the kids.’… That’s where we are today.”
Last Friday, Sandy Springs police assisted Atlanta police after protests in downtown Atlanta turned violent. Some protesters went to Buckhead and damaged businesses. Several were run off by police at Perimeter Mall.
Two arrests were made that night in Sandy Springs after attempted looting at Fountain Oaks shopping center on Roswell Road. At least 20 vehicles gathered before speeding away, DeSimone said. One side-swiped a police patrol car.
The chief said that while officers remain professional and effective on duty, they are tired and apprehensive as they carry out their job.
“These are tough times,” he said. “They’re tough times for all police officers; the law enforcement profession as a whole. If it wasn’t for the Sandy Springs Police Department this weekend, Lenox Mall would’ve been completely looted, and maybe Perimeter Mall. We were called by Atlanta police to help and Dunwoody.”
Signs of support for the police department are still peppered throughout the city on homeowners’ lawns. Neighbors and restaurants regularly bring complimentary lunch to police headquarters.
Resident Pablo Gonzalez, during the city meeting, asked how officers are trained to handle situations in a nonviolent manner.
“I would also like to know what else is the city doing to ensure there is no racism, sexism, any kind of discrimination existing within the culture at the police department,” Gonzalez said.
Councilman Tibby DeJulio said residents have contacted him with questions. “People have asked me how we are training our officers to avoid the problems they had in (Minnesota) like chokeholds on this gentleman Floyd who was killed…,” he said.
DeSimone said his officers receive constant training for all types of situations from simple arrests with no resistance from the suspect to an eruption of violence.
“They can be a knock-down, drag-out fight for your life,” he said. “We are constantly training on how to do that.”
Last Friday, the department received state training on how to recognize and avoid bias, said the chief, who also noted police cars are equipped with two cameras and each officer wears a body camera.
DeSimone said he’s heard members of other law enforcement agencies want to leave the profession because of recent events and he’s concerned.
“I do worry about the recruiting and retention of young police officers all over the United States,” he said. “That’s going to hurt America down the road. It’s disturbing.”
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