SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — As we mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder a local police chief who stood with protesters demanding justice says not enough has been done.
“This was a very demanding year on policing,” said Chief Elvin Barren of the Southfield Police Department.
Barren remembers hearing some police leaders around the country justify the actions of Minneapolis Police in the days after George Floyd died. Soon protests were planned outside police departments around the nation, including Southfield’s.
Chief Barren didn’t defend Minneapolis Police. He marched with protesters.
“Mr. Floyd was murdered. Watching that knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for that period of time was despicable. Right away I knew it was important that something had to be done,” said Chief Barren.
As 7 Action News was the first to report, he told his police department they had a new policy. If they saw a fellow officer doing something wrong they had a duty to intervene.
“That you can’t just stand there and say that you didn’t see it. It was that officer, not me. If you are there. If you witness it, you will be held accountable just as if you participated in that behavior yourself,” said Barren.
He says after he announced the policy, he heard from departments around the country.
“I certainly want to thank Channel 7 for covering it. When Channel 7 covered this story it gained national traction. I received calls from departments around the country, politicians because they wanted the language to implement in their particular police departments,” he said.
Chief Barren says fortunately officers have not had a situation where they had to intervene or failed to intervene in the Southfield Police Department. He credits training on the policy.
Now he wants to see more done around the country. The “duty to intervene” is now part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. It needs approval from the Senate.
The bill also bans racial profiling, chokeholds, no-knock warrants in drug cases, and requires body cameras be worn by uniformed Police.
“What I am looking for is the reforms to be approved. That way we can have consistency. National consistency in policing. In the areas of accountability, transparency. That way the community understands that we are taking the appropriate measures to rebuild their trust,” said Barren.
Not everyone agrees with the policies in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The National Association of Police Officers, for example, says the legislation takes away due process from police and puts them at risk by allowing use of force “only when necessary” instead of when reasonable.
The Movement for Black Lives has criticized the legislation, saying it needs to redirect funding from police organizations that respond to crime to programs that prevent crime.
If you want to read the bill and judge it for yourself you can find it at https://judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/jip_bass_version_xml.pdf.