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Sheriff Woods Weighs in on Police Brutality



Even though Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods is familiar with the knee-to-neck maneuver, he said his deputies are not trained to use that as a defensive tactic.

The owner of the Minneapolis grocery store, Cup Foods, that George Floyd frequently visits, said in an interview with NBC News that he told his employee to "call the police on the police" during Floyd's encounter outside his store.

Though the owner was not there he watched the entire ordeal play out on his surveillance cameras afterward in disbelief.

Remembering Floyd as always pleasant who may not have known that the bill was counterfeit, store owner Mike Abumayyleh said, Floyd used a counterfeit $20 dollar bill that the employee did not catch at the point of sale.

During his interview with NBC News, Abumayyleh said the employee followed protocol by calling the police to report a counterfeit transaction.

"When the police arrived, George Floyd was still at the scene and that's when he was arrested," said Abumayyleh during his interview with NBC news. "What took place outside after that was not in our hands. The murder and execution was something done by the police and the abuse of power and police brutality needs to stop."

Abumayyleh said his employee called him while the officer had his knee on his neck crying, what should I do? The guy can't breathe. They're killing him.

Abumayyleh responded, "Call the police on the police".

The knee-to-neck maneuver, which an independent autopsy stated due to the maneuver, Floyd died of "asphyxiation from sustained pressure", has been widely discredited by law enforcement experts.

Even though Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods is familiar with the knee-to-neck maneuver, he said his deputies are not trained to use that as a defensive tactic.

"The knee-to-neck maneuver is a defensive tactic that I am familiar with but it is not a maneuver I would support using when attempting to subdue a suspect due to the high risk of injury or death," said Woods.

Woods also agreed that the other officers involved were guilty by association.

"Any officer-involved either as an onlooker or active participant should be held accountable," said Woods. "They stood by and witnessed the very obvious disregard for the human life of George Floyd."

Woods said it is the written policy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office that any and all deputies have a moral and ethical duty to immediately report knowledge of wrongdoing. In doing so, deputies or personnel are not subject to retaliatory disciplinary action for reporting under the policy.

"When vesting law enforcement officers with the lawful authority to use force, a careful balance of all human interests is required," said Woods. "It is and will always remain the policy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to use only the force that is reasonably necessary to effectively bring an incident under control while protecting the lives of the officer or another."

Woods expressed his sentiments surrounding the death of Floyd. He has taken to heart the hurt and frustrations of county residents.

"As sheriff, I have received numerous calls soon after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis," said Woods. "Their frustrations and concerns were beyond valid and should be understood by anyone with a heart. Those frustrations encompassed expressed disgust by the misuse of authority by a member of law enforcement but included a feeling of solidarity for George Floyd and his family in the wake of his death."

Other calls received by Woods were for the safety of the men and women within his own agency.

As protesting continues across the nation, some are taking out their anger and frustrations on law officials, turning peaceful protesting into violent riots.

Policing at a time like this is alarming, in part because of the number and variety of protests that are taking place daily in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Woods believes that the majority of demonstrations had the intent to be peaceful but quickly turned violent due outside agitators with hidden agendas evidenced by unlawful acts of looting and vandalism across the state.

"No matter the size of the protest or demonstration, lawful or not, we as a law enforcement agency and community are responsible for creating a safe environment in which all residents can express their views and the lives and property are protected," said Woods. "We stand with you in solidarity, but must also ensure that opposing viewpoints enjoy the same rights, but with no disruption."

Woods, who explained as law enforcement officers, they must strike the right balance not just sometimes but all the time, said he is proud of Jefferson County for channeling their feelings in a positive way.

"The response from citizens has given me some sense of belief that there is no disconnect between members of law enforcement and community," said Woods. "I attribute that to citizens embracing our community efforts and trusting that we want nothing more than to make our community better."

Woods attributes being proactive in his approach to community policing, including embracing the First Amendment right of the people peaceably to assemble, as reasons the community is better and stronger to sustain during these times.

"The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office as well as law enforcement agencies alike were deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd and his encounter with members of the Minneapolis Police Department that ultimately resulted in death," said Woods. "As a member of a law enforcement agency charged with protecting human life among other duties, our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts, and prayers for those affected by this incomprehensible tragedy."

As the Pine Bluff Commercial was preparing for press Wednesday morning for Thursday's edition, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office participated in an open-discussion forum hosted by Professor Henry Brooks and Vice-Chancellor Braque Talley at The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Wednesday night.

Prior to that event Wednesday night, Woods said "It is our sincere hope that the open dialogue generates feedback that we can utilize by the law enforcement profession to eliminate the reoccurrence of a police-citizen encounter that results in the unlawful or abusive use of physical force resulting in serious physical injury or death."

Reinforcing his commitment to honest policing by quickly addressing any allegation of misconduct, Woods said to ensure public trust and maintain the integrity of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, they conduct immediate, thorough, objective, and unbiased investigations surrounding officer misconduct.

"This allows us to also ensure that policy protocols are in the best interest of public service," said Woods. "Our goal is to ensure that all of our members of law enforcement are guided by the principals that every individual has infinite dignity and worth and that we must show respect for the citizens we serve."

In the case of the Minneapolis Police Department's encounter with George Floyd, Woods expresses how the law enforcement profession has failed, noting that not all law enforcement officials are the same.

"I cannot promise that we will always operate mistake-free but I can certainly promise that we will make every effort to be as close to perfection as possible" said Woods. "We must and will always safeguard the constitutional rights of all citizens and as your chief law enforcement official, it is my duty to provide the leadership necessary to carry out good policing. The men and women of the law enforcement agencies serving in Jefferson County and the State of Arkansas are good, honest, and hard-working. Those who fall short will be held accountable. That is my promise as your sheriff."

***Story written by Eplunus Colvin from The Pine Bluff Commercial