LBPD Chief Robert Luna announcing a sweeping gang raid on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.
A file photo of LBPD Chief Robert Luna on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Long Beach’s chief of police has joined a chorus of other law enforcement officials denouncing the actions of 4 Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd, a black man who was seen gasping for breath while an officer kneeled on his back.

Video of Floyd’s arrest has rocketed across the internet, sparking protests from Minnesota to Los Angeles. In the footage, Floyd pleads that he cannot breathe and slowly stops talking and moving.

Unlike other high-profile incidents of officers being accused of killing black men, Floyd’s death sparked swift and public condemnation from police chiefs across the country.

“The actions of these officers are directly in conflict with the oath we have taken to protect and serve, and also violate the public trust that we have worked so hard to build in our communities,” Luna said in a statement today, adding that the video shocked and saddened him.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and LAPD Chief Michael Moore issued similar statements yesterday, saying they were outraged and disturbed.

Moore, Luna and Villanueva are all part of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which issued a statement Wednesday saying its members have been working to rebuild trust between police and citizens.

“What occurred in Minneapolis is a sobering reminder of how quickly bad policing can undermine that trust,” the statement said.

Long Beach has had its own high-profile police shootings and deadly arrests that have sparked protests, but like many departments, it has recently pushed training for officers to deescalate situations. In recent years, officers have used force less often, even though the most serious instances were still disproportionately against black suspects.

Luna said he and other chiefs took the unprecedented step of speaking out so quickly about Floyd’s death because they feared the video could erase progress they’ve made in building trust with the public.

Even without knowing the full set of circumstances, Luna said he was disturbed to see officers in the video apparently make no attempt to help Floyd or remove pressure from his neck even as he said he wasn’t able to breath.

“That just, to us and our code of ethics, that’s not something that you do,” Luna said. “It just isn’t.”

The criticism in Floyd’s death also filtered down past the executive ranks of the LBPD. Officers have expressed their disgust. One sergeant said on social media that he was infuriated and disappointed by Derek Chauvin, the officer shown kneeling on Floyd’s back.

“We often face unfair generalized scrutiny from those who lack understanding of what all we do, & education often times helps out with those misunderstandings… BUT NOT TODAY! That badge has no place on your chest sir,” the sergeant wrote.

Authorities say Chauvin and the other 3 officers detained Floyd after they were called to a Minneapolis grocery store Monday after an employee reported someone allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

The widely circulated cellphone video of the subsequent arrest, Floyd, who was black, can be seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back while Chauvin presses him to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding Floyd down for minutes as Floyd complains he can’t breathe. The video ends with paramedics lifting a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and placing him in an ambulance.

Chauvin and 3 others were fired Tuesday. On Wednesday, the mayor called for him to be criminally charged.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said Thursday they were conducting “a robust criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death and making the case a priority. The announcement came a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that he had asked an investigation to be expedited.

The FBI had already announced that it would investigate whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jeremiah Dobruck

Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.