POLK COUNTY — Video of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota led to outrage around the world. But those involved in the social justice movement locally say they are still waiting for action.
Jarvis Washington founded Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk, Inc.
“Things have changed as far as the spirit of the people. But as far as policies and government and police reform are concerned. It’s still the same thing that’s been presented across the country. The movement has slowed down as far as marching in the streets. But as far as the needs of the people, that hasn’t went anywhere," said Washington.
Washington says his group is still pushing for more transparency from law enforcement, including a citizens review board with more influence. They also want agencies to use body-worn cameras.
“I think in the new modern age we should be able to upgrade our police officers to new modern equipment. And we shouldn’t still be on the "he said, she said" and the honorary system honestly," Washington said.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd calls the killing of George Floyd a horrific event. One he would have handled much differently.
“Had that happened here, I would have had that officer in jail before sundown," said Judd.
Judd says all law enforcement agencies are being painted with a broad brush.
He says the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has never trained its deputies to use chokeholds.
And they’ve used de-escalation strategies for decades.
“I send everyone, 100% of my duties and my dispatchers to crisis intervention training to teach them to recognize mental illnesses to teach them how to deescalate to teach them not only how to recognize but to talk," said Judd.
He says he hasn’t ruled out bringing body cameras to his agency but has many concerns including privacy rights.
“The government doesn’t have a right to put a camera on you and march through your home while conducting an investigation. It government doesn’t have a right to talk to you at the most sensitive times when maybe your child has been killed in a crash.”
While the level of action that resulted from the George Floyd murder doesn’t satisfy everyone, it has brought many new discussions on race.
Kelvin McCree heads up Courageous Community Conversations, a program that’s part of the Lift Lakeland Initiative.
He says it started as a way to improve race relations but has turned into much more.
“It helps us to learn about others. It helps us to remove some of the blind spots we have about this kind of monolithic society we have. In reality, we have lots of different experiences," said McCree.
McCree hopes 15,000 people in Lakeland will go through the Courageous Community Conversations.
“It takes a lot of courage to allow someone else to share their pain. To share their thoughts, to share their experiences. And I think by doing that, that helps all of us," said McCree.
Congress is still working to pass a police reform bill.
And when it comes to the local level, Washington says his community needs to be better represented.
“We are not being targeted in the laws and in the planning and in the structuring of the future of America so that’s where we are missing out at," said Washington.,
“A few agencies and a few officers have brought shame on this entire industry of hardworking men and women that go out and do the right thing every day," said Judd.