By Agence France-Presse
US police officers at the center of demonstrations that have roiled the country are caught between their commitment to the job and recognition that reforms are needed to address institutional racism within their ranks.
From California to Massachusetts, several officers interviewed by AFP said they were horrified by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody — a tragedy that sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
But those interviewed also hit back at accusations that the actions of the officers involved in Floyd’s death reflected the values of law enforcement officers across the country.
“I am not Derek Chauvin… He killed someone. We didn’t. We are restrained,” Michael O’Meara, head of New York state’s Police Benevolent Association, angrily said this week at a press conference.
Chauvin is the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“Everybody’s trying to shame us into being embarrassed about our profession,” O’Meara added.
“Stop treating us like animals and dogs and start treating us with some respect.”
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association in New Mexico, said Chauvin had clearly committed a criminal act that all police officers were ashamed of and it was unfair to paint everyone in uniform with the same brush.
“I feel discriminated against, so do my officers,” he told AFP. “We’re just out here trying to do the best job that we can to protect our community and provide for our families, and now because I wear a badge I’m a problem of systemic racism in the country.
“Law enforcement all over the country gets left holding the bag for the actions of a criminal in Minneapolis,” he added.
Experts however say that Floyd’s death was not an isolated incident but added to long-running anger and distrust of police officers among America’s black communities.