I enjoyed your “Q&A” with the Chief Michael Sarlo [“Q&A: East Hampton Town Police Chief Talks About Reform Process And Its Impact On Morale,” 27east.com, May 5]. But the one thing that has been lacking from the current police reform conversation has been: How have numerous departments missed significant red flags that could have prevented these tragedies from happening?
The overall theme has been a history of a continual pattern of behavior that is unacceptable but yet somehow has escaped the eyes of supervisors and elected officials.
Derek Chauvin was not a racist. Derek Chauvin is a brutal police officer who had a history of violence — and yet he was still held in high esteem and was a role model for other officers. How is that possible?
Officer Chauvin had at least 16 documented incidents of police brutality, and yet even after his conviction we know very little about these complaints and how they were handled. This, in itself, is unconscionable and is truly the reason George Floyd was killed.
A false narrative was created to make race the central issue in this case, when, in fact, it wasn’t. The central issue in this case is the brutality of an officer toward another human being regardless of color.
His history is well-documented, and not a single upper-echelon or government entity intervened to have Chauvin removed from the police department. That is the tragedy.
I have followed many of the reform committees throughout the United States, and the one thing clearly missing is the ability to identify officers who are not suitable to be on the street and have them removed before they have a violent incident that ends in a tragedy.
I am a former NYPD sergeant detective squad supervisor who arrested hundreds of individuals throughout my career and supervised hundreds of arrests by my detectives and officers. Additionally, I was a hostage negotiator for the NYPD. I’m well aware of rogue officers who are malcontents and, in their minds, believe they are above the law, and who seem to have a disdain for authority except for their own authoritative tendencies. They are often looked up to by younger officers who are less seasoned. Without strong supervision, they often go unchecked because they are productive components within a system that is culturally foreign to the public.
If officers can continue to not be held accountable for confirmed misconduct whether in a large city or small town, we will have more future events.
I remember, as a rookie police officer, a veteran detective once said to me that our job is not to punish defendants — that is up to the courts. He also said you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Those words were my guidance throughout my career as an officer and a supervisor.
Thomas M. Jones
One fine body…