An open conversation with police

Magic Valley officials sit down to talk about police stigma, racial tensions and mental health
Open conversation with local officials
Open conversation with local officials(KMVT)
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:02 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - The publicized death of George Floyd in the hands of a police officer shook the nation. That incident was followed by months of protests, even here locally. While many are still pushing for police reform. So, how has this backlash affected officers and departments? We spoke with local law enforcement officials to find out.

Chief of Police Dan Hall with the Jerome Police Department, Sergeant Dusty Solomon with the Twin Falls Police Department, and Clinician Val Seeley with the Department of Health and Welfare’s Behavioral Health Division agreed to sit down and have an open conversation on current national issues.

How has the stigma around law enforcement affected you personally?

“I personally have had people call-in to speak to me as a supervisor and their comment to me is, ‘No wonder everybody hates you,’” said Sgt. Solomon.

“I find sometimes, feeling anger towards what I see on the television,” expressed Chief Hall. “In fact, I found myself talking back to the television a few times.”

How can being the receiving end of this backlash affect mental health?

“When we get into a profession and find that the expectations are a significantly different, that takes a toll,” explained Seeley. “We really have to work hard to adjust our expectations and find a way to succeed, despite anything that’s going on negatively.”

“I know the biggest thing for me is that hyper-awareness of people around me,” detailed Sgt. Solomon. “I’m never sure if that person next to me, do they support me or would they like to see me dead.”

How can watching a video as horrific as George Floyd’s death, affect the public’s mental health? Especially, the mental health of the African American community?

“So, seeing the incident, the tragic loss of George Floyd, can affect people’s perspective of law enforcement,” said Seeley. “We empathize. The black community, African American community are deservingly frustrated. I think they deserve to feel like their lives don’t matter as a result of events.”

“The George Floyd incident should have never happened. I know that it’s not condoned by any police policy or training that I am aware of,” emphasized Chief Hall.

Have there been any changes to your department since this incident happened with George Floyd?

“The things that are being proposed are things that we are already doing,” explained Sgt. Solomon. “The CIT training and the de-escalation training. It’s stuff that’s already taking place, even down to use of force training. As much as we don’t want to talk about that, sometimes we have to use force. But even some of the techniques that have been talked about because of this situation, we’ve already talked about them here in our area.”

Would the protests in Portland be allowed to happen here in the Magic Valley?

“People have the right to peacefully protest,” said Chief Hall. “However, when you start burning property, when you start breaking windows and throwing rocks at police – that is not peaceful protest and it definitely crosses the line there.”

“I think what you see going on in other cities, Portland as an example. It really created a lot of stress and anxiety,” described Seeley. “People don’t really know what the solution is. They’re looking for somebody to understand and someone to listen.”

So, officers what would you like to clear-up for the public, about law enforcement and your intentions?

“I’m going to try to walk in your shoes for a little bit but then try to work in mine and the situations that we have to do, and maybe we can find some common ground where we can actually discuss things instead of just yelling at one another,” expressed Chief Hall.

“I understand where they are coming from with what they are saying,” said Sgt. Solomon. “The plea from my heart though, as a street supervisor is… as you don’t want me to judge you, don’t judge me. Even though I wear this uniform, I still have a heart and I went into this job to help everybody. I would never dream about doing something to someone just because of the color of their skin.”

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