The former Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd “tarnished the badge that they wear and the oath that they took to protect and serve the community,” Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer said Wednesday.
Seurer released a written letter to the community on June 3 shortly after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced an increased charge of second-degree murder for former officer Derek Chauvin, and new charges of aiding an abetting murder against the three other former officers involved in the case.
Seurer didn’t return requests for comment the week of Floyd’s death, but Mayor Janet Williams released a brief statement on May 28 that said police and city officials are committed to continuing public conversations on race.
“We want all residents to know, you are valued and supported,” Williams wrote.
Seurer’s letter began by extending prayers and thoughts to Floyd’s family.
“The death of Mr. Floyd was tragic, upsetting and we are all heartbroken,” Seurer wrote. “I cannot begin to understand why it was necessary for Mr. Floyd to lose his life.
“The actions of those officers have tarnished the badge that they wear and the oath that they took to protect and serve the community,” he continued. “We chose this vocation to protect those who can’t protect themselves and will go out of our way to make sure we help improve the quality of life for everyone.”
The letter cites a recommendation from former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which stated “trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential in a democracy. It is key to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.”
Seurer said building trust within the police department is a result of providing the proper resources, leadership and training.
“Building trust outside of the agency begins with developing positive relationships with the community through our daily contacts and our community outreach initiatives,” Seurer said.
In October 2019, the Savage Police Department hosted the city’s first Community Conversation on Race event. A follow-up event was held in February, and city leaders say a third event is being planned.
“We must continue to move forward, engaging in these conversations with empathy, respect and understanding — whether it is a conversation with neighbors, family members or community members,” Seurer wrote. “This is an opportunity to look into what’s happening around us, focus on our values and make connections with those of different backgrounds and ethnicities.
“We have more similarities than differences,” he concluded. “It is of the utmost importance that we continue with this dialogue even during difficult times.”