Atlanta police chief addresses death of George Floyd with anger and a promise for the city

ATLANTA — In a video released over social media, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields addressed the case of George Floyd, saying his death never should have happened.

Unrest ravaged several blocks in the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis for a second night Thursday, with scattered rioting reaching for miles across the city.

This comes just days after video footage recorded by a bystander showed Floyd pleading that he couldn’t breathe as an officer kneels on his neck. As the minutes passed, he slowly stopped talking and moving. He was later declared dead in a nearby hospital.

The officers were fired from the department, but none are currently facing charges in the case.

Thursday night, Shields added her voice to the growing number of law enforcement agencies condemning what happened.

“I am aware that there is a huge amount of hurt, anger and fear over Mr. Floyd’s murder. Rightly so,” Shields said. “How disconnected does law enforcement have to be for a man to be suffocated by a cop in broad daylight knowing that the cameras are rolling, with fellow officers standing around watching? These officers didn't just fail as cops; they fundamentally failed as human beings.”

Shields said what happened in the video showing Floyd's death is something that would never happen on her force.

“Our training academy does not teach, nor does the department tolerate any form of chokehold or holds that result in pressure to the neck area. We have relied heavily on our body-worn cameras to review the behaviors of officers to ensure patterns of negative behavior are not being exhibited,” Shields said. “Know that the actions of these few officers are not representative of the teachings of the law enforcement profession.”


Shields was candid that the Atlanta Police Department has had its own issues in the past.

“Are we perfect at APD? No, not by a large margin. Our agency has had its share of dark history,” Shields said. “Police training can offset numerous deficiencies; human decency is not one of them. One of the strengths of law enforcement is its people. But it is also our greatest obstacle. We hire people who represent society and, sometimes, the worst parts of society end up on our payroll.”

Shields praised the diversity seen within her department and how openly the department talks about issues of race within the city and race-related issues.

“From Day One, our recruits must work with people from dissimilar backgrounds, and this stays the course throughout their careers,” Shields said.

Her biggest message that she wanted to get across is that what happened was awful.

"What I can state to you today, is that my colleagues and I are appalled with what has occurred to George Floyd. We fully expect for the officers to serve prison time — they’ve earned it,” Shields said. “Our prayers go out to Mr. Floyd’s family. This never should have happened.”

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