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Clovis Police Chief: George Floyd Case Sets Law Enforcement Back 20 Years



Portrait of Clovis, CA, police chief Curt Fleming
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In a Monday interview, Clovis Police Chief Curt Fleming said that George Floyd’s death was “wrong” and he was “appalled” by it.

“When I saw the video first come out, I looked at it — and I was angry myself,” Fleming told GV Wire via Zoom.

Fleming also said that what happened in Minneapolis will set law enforcement recruiting back at least 20 years.

Before the pandemic, the Clovis Police Department had nine open positions and no qualified candidates. Now, the funding for those positions is frozen as Clovis grapples with budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus-ravaged economy.

What Happened Was Wrong

“There was no justification,” said Fleming of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck resulting in his death. “We don’t teach that. When somebody is handcuffed, we immediately put them in a recovery position and get them medical aid.

“This is by far the worst — in my opinion — use of force caught on video. There’s no explanation. Watching the video, there’s probable cause to make an arrest. We don’t teach here to use any type of neck restraint other than a carotid restraint. There’s only certain circumstance that we would use that.”

Fleming also says the other officer shown in the video is complicit for not stepping in to help Floyd

Fleming said that when a suspect is handcuffed in Clovis, that person is in the care and custody of his officers. He says he takes great responsibility in taking care of that person and making sure they’re safe.

In this Monday, May 25, 2020, frame from video provided by Darnella Frazier, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of a handcuffed man pleading that he could not breathe. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd who died in police custody were fired, including Chauvin, who was charged with third-degree murder. (Darnella Frazier via AP)

Minneapolis Police Union

Though Fleming wouldn’t specifically call out the Minneapolis police officers union by name, he didn’t think there’s any way to justify what was shown on the video.

“Anybody taking the side of the officer in this case, and saying that what he did was justified, it would probably be a mistake to take that position for sure,” Fleming said.

However, the head of the federation representing Minneapolis police officers is staunchly defending Chauvin and three other officers fired for their roles in Floyd’s death. Click on the tweet below to read a statement from Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the union.

Set Back 20 Years

Fleming said that his department was “already having a difficult time recruiting officers.” He finished his thought saying trying to get people interested in policing will be more difficult now, and this will set law enforcement back 20 years.

Fleming is worried that even when the economy turns around, it will be a challenge to find qualified candidates.

“We’re out recruiting,” Fleming said. “We out there trying to engage people and get them interested in law enforcement.”

He says many young people are more likely to gravitate toward IT careers or fire fighting.

Fleming says the fire department can post one position and get 300 applications. He might get the same number of applications, but because of the issues with background checks, it’s difficult to hire a qualified person.

Moving forward, the chief says the George Floyd video will be used to train officers on what not to do.

Screening Applicants

“You see a lot of people right now out talking to the media about screening our applicants better and being more restrictive on who we hire,” Fleming said. “Believe me, we’re already doing that. It’s very slim pickings of the people that can pass the background that want to be in law enforcement.’

21st Century Policing

Fleming said that his department has hosted forums in the past to engage the community, but only a small number of people would show up.

In the last couple of years, the department has utilized social media to reach community members and had better success. He recalled a recent Facebook town hall that had more than 8,000 views.

Clovis police are active on all social media channels. Case in point: Fleming quickly stated his position on the Floyd case on the Clovis PD Facebook page.

Pillars for Law Enforcement

Under the previous police chief, Matt Basgall, the department identified several pillars of law enforcement that guide officers and the community. The first four are:

  1. Building trust and legitimacy “committed to building partnerships and trust.”
  2. Policy and oversight “to allow for greater transparency and information release. …”
  3. Technology and social media:  “All patrol officers wear body-worn cameras.”
  4. Policing and crime reduction:  “Learn what patrol “beat” you live in, and who your Beat Corporal is!”

Training to Improve Performance

Clovis PD started a diversity committee that includes community members in January.

And, Fleming said, “Every month we have 10 hours of training for our officers in complicit bias. We’re constantly training to provide the best service to the community we can.”

Can’t Send Officers out of Town

Fleming wishes he could send officers to places like Los Angeles and Oakland as other departments have. But he said he needs all of his officers to keep Clovis residents safe.

“Out of all cities with populations over 100,000, Clovis Police Department is the lowest staffed department in the state,” Fleming said.

He says the latest statistics from 2018 show less than one officer per 1,000 residents.