Police, protestors work together to honor George Floyd
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Peaceful protests have continued for almost a week at Lakeview Commons in South Lake Tahoe after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.
The officer responsible Floyd’s death is facing second-degree murder charges and the three officers who watched were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The protests in South Lake have been mainly focused around police reform and raising awareness for the Black Lives Matters movement.
“Being a Tahoe local, I’ve really seen some beautiful things but I’ve also seen some injustices,” said Kevin Brunner, one of the protest’s main organizers.
Brunner, who is running for city council, said although Tahoe is not very diverse, people come from all over the world and he wants to show the world what the community stands for. He also felt moved by the victims of police brutality and was having dreams about them.
“It’s like they were saying here’s our voices, here’s our spirits, can you shine for us,” Brunner said.
Many around the world are horrified with the actions of those four officers involved in Floyd’s murder, including South Lake Tahoe Police Department Interim Chief Shannon Laney.
“We’re all disgusted by what happened to Mr. Floyd,” Laney told the Tribune. “That’s not how we do business here.”
Laney said he wants his officers to have open communication about the issues at hand.
“We don’t have any issues with racism within our ranks,” Laney said, continuing that they have very stringent background checks including interviewing candidates’ families, friends and neighbors, looking at their school and financial records, looking at their social media accounts, doing a walkthrough of their homes and having the candidate complete a lie detector test.
Laney said 80% of applicants don’t make it through that background check that includes entry level candidates and officers transferring from other departments.
California standards are also responsible for good policing practices in South Lake, including the El Dorado County Critical Incident Protocol. The protocol requires investigators from El Dorado County District Attorney’s office, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Placerville PD and SLTPD to investigate anytime there is a death or serious injury during an arrest or in custody.
Laney said SLTPD officers go through a lot of training, including mental health, de-escalation training and how to take people in as safely as possible.
Still, protesters at Lakeview Commons see room for improvement for the department.
In 2015, a SLTPD officer shot and killed Kris Jackson, 22. The El Dorado County District Attorney said criminal charges could not be proven and they could not “definitively find that the shooting was justified.” A civil suit is still pending and Laney said the incident was a “tragedy.”
Another incident just a couple of weeks ago triggered the critical incident protocol when SLTPD officers responded to a scene where a motorist collided with multiple cars on Emerald Bay Rd. The suspect was being detained on the ground by witnesses when officers arrived. When they went to make the arrest, the report said the suspect was unresponsive and died at the scene.
Protesters are also hoping to see changes made locally, statewide and nationally to prevent police brutality. Brunner thinks all police departments need to get to know their communities, regularly re-evaluate their officers and go back to all cases involving officer-involved killings and re-evaluate. Laney and Mayor Jason Collin have been meeting with protesters because, while they don’t have racism issues, “there are always ways to improve the way we do things.”
Being a part of the community is important for Brunner, who would like police officers to be less intimidating and more approachable.
“We shouldn’t have to feel scared when we see a cop,” Brunner said. “I should be able to go up to them and shake their hands and start a conversation or wave at them in their cars.” Brunner would also like the officers to spend more time interacting with community members.
“They should come smoke a joint with us, barbecue with us, they have kids, we have kids, let’s hang out together, get to know us,” Brunner said. Laney encourages the community to reach out to the department and ask hard questions and keep their departments accountable. “We measure our success by our accessibility to the community,” he said. One thing Brunner and Laney are both proud of is that the protests have remained peaceful.
“I’m proud of our community for exercising their First Amendment rights in a peaceful way,” Laney said. Brunner is immensely grateful for having the support of SLTPD and Collin. “SLTPD and the mayor gave their support and they have my support,” Brunner said.
Brunner is also grateful for the other organizers who helped put the protests together and keep them peaceful. He said, “I wouldn’t be here without Cooper, Julie, Danny, Harmony, Michael, Nicole, Lee, Madi, Luc, Nikki, Wyatt, Sean, Jesse, Eli, Neil, Gentry and Dylan.”
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