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Opinion
Palm Coast Tuesday, Jun. 2, 2020 1 month ago

Reflections on George Floyd: How we train and hire at the Flagler County Sheriff's Office

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The officer who killed Floyd 'should have never been in policing to begin with,' Sheriff Rick Staly says.
by: Guest Writer

by: Rick Staly

Flagler County Sheriff

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is deeply saddened and disturbed by the events that led to the death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis.

I have viewed the video and, like you, I am shocked and saddened at what I saw. Based on the information known to date, the conduct of the officers involved are completely inconsistent with the best practices of today’s professional law enforcement officer. The violence and lawlessness we are seeing across the country are never the right response. While emotions may run high, we need to allow the legal system to work to ensure truth and accountability. That is the American way and the American justice system.

However, let me be clear: If an officer needs training to know they should not put their knee and weight on someone’s neck for over 7 minutes while he is handcuffed and not resisting and telling you he can’t breathe, he should have never been in policing to begin with. And, the officers that stood around and did nothing are just as problematic.

 

How we train deputies

Your Sheriff’s Office is trained to de-escalate situations and has a proven track record of showing great restraint. Our internal training program involves a nine-week New Hire Academy followed by a multi-week Field Training Program for our new deputies. This is in addition to the required minimum of 770 hours of state academy training.

For all deputies, there are annual mandatory training courses covering a wide range of important operational and policy subjects, required leadership courses for those in supervisory roles, mentoring, and special training opportunities, such as our focus on effective supervision. Successful citizen interactions and the appropriate use of defensive tactics and de-escalation techniques are continually addressed throughout the year by supervisors and during training experiences. Deputies are issued body cameras, and we are adding cameras in our patrol cars to supplement the body worn cameras.

We have a proven track record, as documented by our local media, of using great restraint in potentially violent and dangerous situations.

When I became sheriff in 2017, we implemented Guardianship and District policing as our community policing culture. Guardianship policing is the community and neighborhoods working together with the Sheriff’s Office and each taking ownership in our community’s safety together. Both our deputies and citizens report this service delivery model has resulted in positive relationships with the community and significant crime reduction. These relationships also help to build transparency and therefore trust.

 

How we hire deputies

While I do not know the hiring process of the Minneapolis Police Department, I can tell you about ours.

The high degree of professionalism of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is the result of recruitment, hiring, training, supervision, model policies, our leadership development program, support for college education, statewide accreditations, the use of nationally validated best police practices, our community and guardianship policing philosophy, and a culture of ethical responsibility.

We use polygraph and psychological testing, along with full background investigations, to help select the right candidate.

Our citizens interact with highly trained professionals utilizing innovative strategies and the latest technology to bring crime to its lowest level in decades. You are served by professionals who are fluent and knowledgeable in a diverse spectrum of subjects. These professionals aid citizens with a wide range of individual needs – mentoring young people, helping citizens with social services, mental health, substance abuse, caring for senior citizens, and encouraging student success in our schools. Our team is a talented, caring, and culturally competent law enforcement organization continually striving to foster positive relationships with the citizens we serve.

 

Disenfranchisement

As I join our deputies weekly on patrol in our community, I continue to communicate to our deputies they have the full support and treasured trust of our agency and community. We take the trust the community instills in us to act appropriately very seriously, and, as sheriff, I require it.

Too often, the flash points we are seeing across America are triggered by the actions of a few law enforcement officers, such as Mr. Floyd’s death. However, the underlying cause is often the disenfranchisement and socio-economic disparity in a community. These are the real factors that a community and country must address. It is also these underlying factors that allow outside agitators to incite community unrest.

Incidents like the tragic death of Mr. Floyd make policing difficult for all law enforcement officers and are not reflective of the many men and women that serve their communities with honor. As sheriff, I will protect your constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate and protest. However, violence, looting and attacking police officers will not be accepted behavior. Violence against law enforcement officers is always wrong and can never be tolerated.

In closing, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Floyd.

Rick Staly is sheriff of Flagler County.

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