Conaway: The vast majority of law enforcement officers are upstanding heroes
Texas Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11) issued a press release regarding police unions and the protests that are currently engulfing the country.
In his press release on June 5th Conaway said that police reforms are needed, “The egregious actions of the officers responsible for the death of Mr. Floyd do not represent all police, as the vast majority of law enforcement officers are upstanding heroes who put their own lives on the line every day to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. That being said, reforms are needed within our police departments to better ensure the safety of citizens and officers. For example, some police unions shield officers with known disciplinary problems from facing consequences. Ending this practice will be crucial to restoring accountability and trust between our citizens and those who protect us.”
The riots have consumed the nation almost daily since George Floyd’s death on May 25th in Minneapolis. A video that has gone viral showed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling with the weight of his body on the neck of Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes. According to witnesses Floyd’s body went limp just over 5 minutes into the video. Chauvin continued kneeling on him for another 3 minutes as he looked silently at the bystanders with his hands in his pockets. At one point Floyd told Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.” Chauvin did not reply to Floyd nor did he remove his knee from Floyd’s neck.
Those three words, “I can’t breathe” have become the rally cry for riots and demonstrations across the nation and have become the mantra for the group Black Lives Matter. Those are the same words uttered by Eric Garner in New York City on July 17, 2014 when New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold, as defined by New York Judge Rosemarie Maldonado. Garner died while in the chokehold according to the medical examiner. Garner also had underlying medical problems such as diabetes and asthma. When Maldonado recommended the termination of Pantaleo her findings included, "'Use of a chokehold fell so far short of objective reasonableness that this tribunal found it to be reckless — a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer'." In that case the City of New York settled a lawsuit out of court for $5.9 million with Garner’s family and Pantaleo was fired, although he escaped indictment. According to the autopsy by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner Floyd also had underlying medical conditions. The 20 page document shows that Floyd tested positive for COVID-19. The medical examiner report also stated that the cause of death was a homicide, "Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." The medical examiner listed other "significant" conditions underlying his death, including hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
Those conclusions were in contrast with an independent autopsy conducted by pathologists for Floyd's family.
That independent autopsy concluded that Floyd had no underlying medical problems that contributed to his death. The pathologists also said he died after blood and air flow were cut off to his brain, causing him to die by mechanical asphyxia.
The riots have caused millions of dollars in damages in cities from Dallas and Austin to Buffalo, NY and from Houston to Hollywood, CA. Looting has been widespread as well as arson and violence against police officers. In Chicago alone 1,258 protesters were arrested while 130 police officers were injured during one demonstration. The police chief in Moline Acres, Missouri, David Dorn, 77, was killed while trying to stop looters.
Demonstrations and riots in Austin resulted in a number of officers being injured, primarily by projectiles thrown by protesters. An Austin police horse was also injured when a brick struck it on the face. The Austin Police mounted unit stood at the forefront of some of the demonstrations. The officers sitting atop their horses were easy targets for protesters throwing bricks, rocks, bottles of urine and other items. Police departments across the country have held their lines in the face of thousands of protesters who confronted them.
At one point wooden shields were confiscated by the Austin Police Department. A Facebook post showed the police with the shields that had been placed in areas around the city for the protesters to use. The shields were made of plywood with ropes attached for handles.
On June 6th, the Austin Police Department invited citizens to kneel with them on the steps of police headquarters to condemn the actions that led to the death of Floyd. Several other departments across the nation have also knelt with protesters in a sign of solidarity.
In Webster, Massachusetts police chief Michaed D. Shaw laid on the ground in front of protesters with his hands behind his back. His actions drew backlash and rebukes from law enforcement officers across the country, many taking to social media to voice their outrage. According to an article in Telegram.com, Shaw’s officers, police union and others in the community came to his defense, supporting his decision to prostrate himself before the protesters. After he stood up several protesters came up to Shaw and voiced their support as they hugged and thanked him.
In Buffalo, New York a 75-year old man who was protesting the Floyd killing approached two Buffalo PD Riot officers who were among other officers clearing an area of protesters. In the video the man can be seen approaching the officers and reaching toward one officer’s pistol belt with an object in his hand that appeared to be a cell phone. As the man reached his hand toward the officer’s belt, a second officer, holding his baton horizontally, pushed the man back. The other officer then used his hand to push the man backward as well. As the man stumbled backward he fell to the ground and the back of his head struck the concrete. The officer with the baton bent down to help the man but was pulled up by another officer and they bypassed the unconscious man and continued to clear the area of protesters. There was blood pooling under the mans head as he laid there, apparently unconscious. It was later reported that he was in critical condition in the hospital due to the head injury. The two officers involved in the confrontation were fired within 48 hours and have been charged with second-degree assault. The incident added fuel to the fire for protests around the country.
Memorial services for Floyd are being held across the nation. Floyd’s viewing was June 8th and his funeral was in the Houston suburb of Pearland on Tuesday, June 9th. Former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather paid for Floyd’s funeral expenses.
In his presss release Conaway supported police officers but said that there is room for change. The full Conaway press release is below:
“The tragic and wrongful death of George Floyd has deeply disturbed our entire nation. I am glad to see quick action by local law officials and the Department of Justice to hold the police officers responsible for Mr. Floyd’s death accountable.
The egregious actions of the officers responsible for the death of Mr. Floyd do not represent all police, as the vast majority of law enforcement officers are upstanding heroes who put their own lives on the line every day to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. That being said, reforms are needed within our police departments to better ensure the safety of citizens and officers. For example, some police unions shield officers with known disciplinary problems from facing consequences. Ending this practice will be crucial to restoring accountability and trust between our citizens and those who protect us.
The First Amendment guarantees that every American has the right to peacefully protest, and I wholeheartedly support the peaceful gatherings we are witnessing across Texas and each of the 50 states. It is disgraceful that rioters and looters are taking advantage of this situation for their own gain. They absolutely must be stopped before more harm is done to people and small businesses.
There is no place for the unequal treatment of citizens in the United States of America, and we cannot let this tragedy divide us. Instead, we must choose to empathize with the hurt of others, embrace our differences, and work towards healing and unity. We must each commit to examining our individual hearts, condemning racism, and moving forward as one nation under God.“