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Madera County Interim Sheriff Says Agencies Must Look in Their Backyards After Floyd’s Death



Portrait of Madera County interim sheriff Tyson Pogueu
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Tyson Pogue is the interim Madera County sheriff after Jay Varney exited the top spot mid-term to become the county’s chief administrative officer.

“Be mad. I’m mad. We’re all angry. We encourage people to raise their voice and, yes, demand justice, and demand law enforcement be better.” — Tyson Pogue, Madera County interim sheriff

And now Pogue, the former undersheriff, is confronting new challenges as protests rage across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We’re embarrassed. We’re disgusted, and we’re outraged,” Pogue says about the Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

“Be mad. I’m mad. We’re all angry. We encourage people to raise their voice and, yes, demand justice, and demand law enforcement be better.”

Pogue urges people to promote peace, understanding and equality without promoting violence or destruction.

George Floyd Video

“It was absolutely appalling,” Pogue says matter of factly. “There’s no qualifiers. There’s no excuses. It was horrible and it left a black eye on our law enforcement community.

“We cannot look away and pretend the actions are acceptable behavior. It’s time we look inward and make sure this type of evil does not exist in our own backyard.”

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 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)

Additional Training

All Madera County Sheriff’s Deputies receive training every two years on racial profiling and cultural diversity.

Moving forward, Pogue wants more training in de-escalation techniques, more bias training, and exploring peer intervention training. Pogue cited the New Orleans Police Department’s peer intervention program as a great example of what he wants to do.

Some key takeaways from the New Orleans program include:

  • Equip officers with the skills they need to intervene before problems occur or escalate and do so safely;
  • Support and protect officers who do the right thing;
  • Provide officers with resources to help them make ethical decisions.

Neck Restraint Technique

The Madera County Sheriff’s Office is reviewing its use-of-force policy, Pogue said.

“We do have a regular arm carotid restraint authorized in extreme circumstances,” he says. “(But) I’m not aware of the last time it was actually used.”

According to KPBS-TV in San Diego, in a carotid restraint — a type of so-called chokehold also known as a “sleeper hold” — an officer applies pressure to vascular veins on the side of a detainee’s neck to render the person unconscious in a matter of seconds.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and local elected officials announced Monday that the SDPD would immediately stop using carotid restraints as a use-of-force procedure.

Union Support of Officers

GV Wire asked Pogue if he felt it was appropriate for the Minneapolis police union to defend the actions of the Derek Chauvin, who is charged with third-degree murder, and three other fired officers in the Floyd case.

“I don’t know how anybody could watch that video and take a stance on anything other than the officer was in the wrong,” says Pogue. “I think it was horrible what happened. I disagree with (the union’s) position.”

The head of the federation representing Minneapolis police officers staunchly defended Chauvin and the other officers 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.

More Citizen Involvement

Pogue says the department is exploring the creation of citizens academy. The Madera Police Department has one that teaches residents about narcotics, gangs, police dispatching, investigations, patrol, SWAT, and other topics.

Pogue also wants a citizen advisory committee for an additional layer of accountability. This is something the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department leans on.

Building Trust

Pogue says he takes great pride in the work his department has done to communicate with the communities throughout Madera County, which covers 2,137 square miles on the Valley floor and up into the Sierra National Forest.

“We obviously continue to work to identify strategies to build trust and understanding of those communities that we serve,” Pogue says. “We’ve been very fortunate in the Central Valley. We have a great community. There have been protests and everybody has been so calm. We just hope that continues.”