'I am outraged': King, Pierce County sheriffs speak on need to 'call out our own' after George Floyd's death

SEATTLE -- As the death of George Floyd continues to spark outrage and protests across the country, local law enforcement leaders are speaking out about the disturbing video and its rippling effects.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in custody after pleading that he could not breathe, was arrested Friday and charged with murder.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor posted a lengthy response on his Facebook page, noting "the necessity of calling out our own."

"I know that policing is not easy.  It involves the need to make balanced ethical decisions which can greatly impact people’s lives.  Often these decisions need to be made in chaotic, emotional situations with insufficient information with real time constraints," he said. "I respect and honor the men and women who do this incredibly difficult job correctly every day. But now comes the incident in Minneapolis."

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor

Pastor said anyone who believes there's more to the story and that all the details aren't yet known should "try watching the video again."

"Sure, this sometimes happens in the midst of trying to get control in a fight.  In the real world, unlike on television, violence is not carefully choreographed," he said. "But here ... the knee remains in place after resistance has stopped and for several additional minutes with four officers present. None of the officers intervened.  None stepped forward to say, 'That’s enough. Back off.'"

Pastor said he doesn't know whether Floyd's death was caused by racism, anger, improper policing or a combination of all three. But he said the United States, "for all of its tremendous strengths, has a large, unresolved racial divide."

"Like it or not, that is a fact," he said. "For too many Americans, this divide and its awful consequences is an uncomfortable and embarrassing fact which is more easily downplayed than acknowledged.  That discomfort and that embarrassment may be part of the reason that we, in law enforcement, are too often silent after situations like this."

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht's response was more pointed: "Simply put, I am outraged."

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht

"I see an officer willfully kneeling on the neck of a man who can't breathe, and three of his fellow officers failing to intervene," she said.

Johanknecht said Floyd's death has prompted messages from the community asking what protocols the King County Sheriff's Office has in place to prevent these kinds of things from happening here.

She said the state requires that deputies receive eight hours of crisis intervention training by July 2021, but King County requires 40 hours.

They're also trained in de-escalation and defensive tactics that don't require the use of a firearm, she said.

All Sheriff's Office deputies must attend eight hours of implicit bias training to examine stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

Johanknecht said the sheriff's office is also in the process of purchasing body cameras and dashcams for all deputies.

Pastor said calling out the problem is an important step, "necessary to the well-being and credibility of our profession."

"And, ultimately, it is a necessary part of healing America’s large and unresolved racial divide," he said.