BALTIMORE — It was May 25th of this year when an officer in Minneapolis put a knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, draining the life out of him, while three other cops failed to intervene.
It had a lasting effect on the entire nation, including Baltimore Police Officer Chantell English, a 12-year veteran.
“Myself, even an an officer, just watching the video, my heart… it cringed. You know, it literally cringed,” English told us. “I think the conversation I had with other officers, we all had the exact same views.”
Other officers should have intervened, and that’s the goal of a new training program designed to help prevent misconduct and mistakes.
“The reality is pure intervention occurs between the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department every single day,” said Major Martin Bartness, the department’s commander of education and training. “What we want is for it to occur every single time.”
And that means speaking up when the police go too far or recognizing when an officer is even exhibiting behavior that could lead to unwarranted aggression.
The Blue Wall of Silence?
In New Orleans, what was once one of the most corrupt agencies in the country became a model for others in recent years after promoting officer intervention and protecting them from retaliation when they did so.
One of Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s deputy commissioners, Danny Murphy, witnessed the results.
“There were examples of a supervisor or officers getting agitated in an encounter with the public, and it can be as simple as someone coming up and tapping that individual or officer on the shoulder and saying, ‘I got this. Step away,’” said Murphy.
Officers who intervene will benefit on their performance evaluations, through promotional considerations and by earning department awards, while potentially saving lives and careers of those sworn to protect.
With more than 3,000 sworn and civilian employees, the training is no small undertaking, and the goal is to reach everyone throughout the department.