The nation watched Tuesday evening as Derek Chauvin was convicted in the death of George Floyd.
However, the former Minneapolis police officer does not represent the way all law enforcement handle the challenging scenarios they often find themselves in, according to McKean County District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer.
Shaffer explained that local law enforcement are taught to de-escalate situations and have rules regarding how to restrain someone safely.
“Most local departments have a policy that prohibit choke holds or other forms of restraint that impede breathing,” she noted.
In fact, local officers were angry at Chauvin’s actions, she said.
“Some citizens violate the law and this defendant did. By recognizing that he did, we also recognize that he is not the face of law enforcement,” Shaffer explained.
“Our local departments through their chiefs expressed outrage over this defendant’s actions. We all recognize our responsibility to citizens and that includes that force is used when — and in the manner — it is appropriate.”
What is more normal is to see officers weighing the enforcement of law with safety, according to Shaffer.
“Every officer and individual departments are constantly evaluating their policies to ensure that they balance law enforcement goals with the safety of individuals, including those they arrest,” she explained.
De-escalation tactics are the safest option for both community and officers, Shaffer said.
“One local chief stressed to me that de-escalation is a priority for him, saying ‘We want to go home to our families, as well,’” she added.
De-escalation was the focus of a special training that several local officers received in the past couple of years, according to Shaffer. That training taught officers how to approach calls that involve a person who is suffering from mental illness.
It is understandable that someone who is not in the shoes of a police officer is not aware of the decisions an officer needs to make on a daily basis. But that also means that when an officer prevents a tragedy, it is invisible to the public eye.
“On any given day, officers are required to determine when to call off a high speed chase for the safety of the fleeing driver and the community in consideration of the crime the fleeing driver is suspected of committing, the time of day, the amount of traffic, and any other factor that impacts safety,” said Shaffer. “This happened (Tuesday) in McKean County.”
“These types of decisions are being made every day by local police and no one even knows it — because the right decisions are being made.”