June 12, 2020

Quite sadly this year on the twenty fifth of May, the citizens of the United States, and perhaps the entire world, viewed a barbarous criminal act that had taken place in the state of Minnesota.  From coast to coast, our citizens watched as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of Mr. George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until the life of the victim, father, son, brother and American Citizen, George Floyd had ceased.

For all of us, the video is disturbing to watch and even harder to comprehend. I, along with all other members of the law enforcement community throughout the nation, are disgusted with this senseless act of brutality at the hands of this officer along with the inactions of the other officers present. This unspeakable act resulted in the death of Mr. Floyd and has eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement.

During the past weeks I have received many inquiries from residents regarding the actions of former officer Chauvin. Like many other police administrators, I still struggle with this terrible event. As a Chief of Police and an investigator I, along with my peers, have been analyzing the many unanswered questions. Questions concerning hiring, training, environmental factors, social factors, discipline factors, leadership factors are among the many others.  However, the key question is: What led Chauvin and others to take the actions or inactions that we as a nation witnessed? This, of course, is followed by another important question. Why did the other officers allow what they were witnessing to continue?

Both of these points are extremely disturbing to me and I question whether this is an indicator of a rogue department, department sub-culture, or a total system failure. It goes without saying that there is a need, might I say a demand, for a complete, unbiased, and detailed study of this unfortunate and preventable incident.

We must question where the preventable opportunities at all levels of government were hiding. Assuredly, they exist, and they must be ferreted out and eliminated for the sake of law enforcement officers and citizens alike. The memory of this tragedy must be imprinted upon the minds of every officer that wears a badge. None are exempted, and all those employed as in law enforcement must be held critically responsible to their performance and their upholding of their sworn oath and our U.S. Constitution.

As your Police Chief, I would like our community to know that it is the duty of every Hamilton Police Officer to protect the rights of all citizens that live and visit our community. On behalf of the entire Police Department, I can say with one loud and clear voice that there is no room for racism of any kind in police work, in the Town of Hamilton, or any venue within the Commonwealth or the United States. Our heritage is freedom, and our rights are for all.

Foremost in my mind, I recognize that the citizens of Hamilton have given the Hamilton Police Department their trust, a trust that we have sworn to uphold with the same value as we do to our oath to both the Constitution of the United States, and the Laws and Constitution of the Commonwealth. We will remain diligent in our work for you and continue to provide a clear understanding of our department, our training, and quality of service.

As a member and immediate Past President of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, representing Police Chiefs in all 351 cities and towns and most college campuses, we denounce the egregious actions taken by four members of the Minneapolis Police Department, whether by action or inaction, that resulted in the death of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. Massachusetts Police Officers have thoroughly embraced the six pillars of the principles embodied in the final report of the President’s (Obama) Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and remain committed to professional conduct, democratic policing and procedural justice for all people.

Out of 351 cities and towns in the state, Hamilton is one of only 93 in the Commonwealth that has attained the level of being a fully accredited department. As an accredited department, we are required to have proper policies in place. It is equally important to ensure that these policies are being followed. To that end, we are required by policy to review, analyze and report yearly on any use of force and bias policing issues that arise. Because we are accredited, we are required to be assessed by independent auditors and show proof of compliance. We are also required to submit all incidents of use of force to the FBI. It is more involved and we do so much more, to include a yearly review of all motor vehicle stops that are made by each officer to look for any bias as it relates to the enforcement of laws. In addition, we review, analyze and report on any and all use of force incidents for each officer yearly. Because we are an accredited Department, we have to adhere to over 300 Accreditation Standards holding our department and officers to the highest standard of policing.

Achieving and maintaining accreditation was not, and is not, an easy task. We have chosen to do this in spite of its difficulties because of its high level of accountability and strongly believe that all police departments should adhere to such standards. We recognize that changing the system that caused this terrible incident and others relies heavily on a commitment, such as accreditation, and for police departments to make these types of changes.

We call upon our community to work with us as we continue to hold ourselves to these high standards of policing and accountability. We are fortunate that the majority of our officers were raised in Hamilton, attended our town’s schools, and reside or have family members who reside in Hamilton. We are a proud part of this community and are dedicated to serving its populace. I sincerely hope that you will look to our evolution and series of accomplishments over the years. I also ask that you do not allow the improper actions of those individuals far removed from our town to enter into the equation. Hamilton’s officers have and will continue to faithfully dedicate their lives to the service and protection of our town.

It is my hope that we can have a “Town Hall” style meeting soon to discuss this and many other questions you may have. I am sure that we can lead rather than follow the various possibilities that remain in the near future.

The Town of Hamilton expects high standards, and I believe its officers exceed these expectations. Given the current state of our Nation, I believe the following quote from the late Robert Kennedy to be appropriate and particularly relevant:

“We know that law is the glue that holds civilization together. And we know that if one man’s rights are denied, the rights of all of us are in danger.” (1961, Athens, Georgia)

 

Respectfully,

Russ Stevens

Chief of Police