TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan took time on Thursday to address a video out of Minneapolis showing a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck during an arrest. The man, 46-year-old George Floyd, later died.
Chief Dugan called the video of the incident upsetting and said he was “deflated” watching the actions of the officers while Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe until he eventually stopped talking and moving.
“It just kind of took the air out of me to look at other officers stand there and not provide assistance or be engaged,” Dugan said of the video. “I still don’t have enough facts but I know what I see just like everybody else. And it’s – to say disappointed, deflated, there is no word for it. It’s an understatement.”
Floyd’s death has sparked unrest in Minneapolis. It escalated on Thursday to the point that Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the National Guard.
Dugan said he and his department are actively evaluating what happened in Minnesota to make sure nothing like that happens in the City of Tampa.
“When these types of events happen, they do bleed over into other parts of the country,” he said. “It’s similar to a hate crime. It happens in one city and people start questioning, ‘could that happen here?'”
If something were to ever happen in Tampa, Dugan promised he would do everything he could to be transparent.
“It’s very important to me that people trust me. As the chief of police, you have several roles. Your job is to police the police and police the community,” he said. “The citizens, Mayor Castor, they are relying on me to be the watchdog of the police too. The officers know that I have their back but they also know I will hold them accountable.”
Dugan said these types of incidents force police chiefs across the country to reflect on the situation and question how their own departments would respond.
“What I would encourage people to do is take a moment. When you look at the swift action by (Minneapolis’) chief of police in firing these four officers, that’s a bold statement right there,” he said. “That tells you that he was concerned about what was going on.”
Despite being disturbed by the video that’s been widely circulated this week, the Tampa police chief noted no autopsy report has been released yet on Floyd’s death.
“We do not know the cause of death. So these are all the factors,” Dugan said. “At some point, things clearly went bad. And that is what we’re trying to determine. We constantly look at other incidents in other cities and look at things that happen in our own department and we evaluate what happened and we try to apply what is learned. I think that is why our profession, in general, has gotten better.”
Another Tampa Bay area law enforcement leader, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison, also released a statement on the death of Floyd.
“My initial reaction is that the incident is very disturbing. I believe everyone should be treated with dignity, respect and humanity. From my limited view, this was not exhibited by these police officers,” the statement said, in part. “The particular move to place a knee on the neck of someone in custody is something I have never been a part of in my nearly 30-year law enforcement career.”