Updated: April 21, 2021 10:30 PM
Created: April 21, 2021 09:48 PM
The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial is opening up a larger conversation when it comes to law enforcement everywhere, and police conduct, as well as the training they receive.
St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman says he believes the verdict was both "right" and "just."
"I think mistakes were made clearly with George Floyd. That situation by those Minneapolis officers could've been handled very differently," said Litman.
Litman says the guilty verdict reinforces that law enforcement needs to be held to the highest standard.
"Clearly, that doesn't mean as a profession that we can just go about our business like we always have, and going forward. Obviously, we have a lot of work left to do," said Litman.
Litman says he feels ongoing training for law enforcement staff would go a long ways to help. Also, putting more of an emphasis on critical incident training, and interpersonal communication skills, as well as focusing more on screening during the hiring process.
"Clearly the message from a wide cross section of society in our country is demanding reform and change in the way that law enforcement does business," said Litman.
In his department, Litman says it's critical that staff interact with inmates in a fair way regardless of their race.
"I think it's a big mistake on our part to just say, 'we're doing everything just fine, and the problem isn't all our fault.' I think we have to really look very hard at what we're doing, and try to make some changes that still allow us to do our work to keep our staff, our officers safe, but also making sure that we're protecting the public, and not causing bigger issues than the one we're trying to solve," said Litman.
Litman says the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office has been involved in four deadly use of force incidents in the last three years.
"A common underlying theme that we're seeing is the suicidal male that wants law enforcement to do what they won't do themselves, and that's kill themselves," said Litman. "That's not a law enforcement-driven problem or issue. That's a societal issue," he added.
Litman also described what gives a law enforcement officer the right to use deadly force.
"Generally speaking, what gives a law enforcement officer the right to use deadly force (is) to protect themselves or others from great bodily harm," said Litman.
Litman says he understands why the public's confidence in law enforcement is down, but adds his department will do all they can to regain it.
"We do have a lot of support, and we appreciate that, but we're also very cognizant of the people that maybe question who we are or what we do, and we'll always strive to mend those relationships, to instill confidence of people of all color," said Litman.
Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken sent a statement reacting to the Chauvin verdict saying:
“Nearly a year ago, we watched with outrage and sadness at the tragedy of George Floyd’s death at the hands of officers who took an oath to protect his rights. We watched as he begged for his next and last breath, only to have it denied. As an organization, we condemned the actions and inactions we witnessed. Yesterday’s verdict was right and just. We are committed to continuous improvement and innovation in policing that honors and cares for the people we took an oath to serve. We commit to working to build relationships and trust with the people in all our neighborhoods. It is our honor to serve you.”