CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Law enforcement leaders in Cherokee County are speaking out after George Floyd’s death, and they told 7 News they are more determined than ever to listen to those they serve.
“Your heart, your spirit is crushed. Repulsive. Certainly something we condemned immediately,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said about the incident in Minneapolis.
“Appalled at it,” Gaffney Police Chief Chris Skinner added. “I mean, it’s right there–you can’t hide it. It was murder.”
When law enforcement leaders in Cherokee County saw the video of George Floyd being pinned down by a police officer, they said they were sickened.
“Sitting on the couch, watching it, I almost wanted to get up and run through the TV to try and stop it,” Sheriff Mueller said.
So, when their community decided to protest, they understood. In fact, they protested with them.
“We’re a tight-knit community,” Chief Skinner said. “Everybody gets along.”
“We always remind our folks that the badge that you have and the authority that comes with it is not from the badge,” Sheriff Mueller said. “The authority comes from the people you serve.”
And those they serve have noticed the support.
“Our law enforcement agencies are big on unity and unifying our community,” protest organizer Darion Rainey said.
Darion Rainey helped organize one of the recent protests in Gaffney and said it was refreshing to see those in blue out there with them.
Rainey told 7 News the protests have helped to create a positive dialogue between law enforcement and people like him.
“Not only do you see how the community feels, but you see how the officers feel as well,” he said.
Another peaceful rally is scheduled for this weekend and both law enforcement agencies will be there–not only for security, but to participate in the fight for justice.
“As officers, we need to stand up and say ‘That is wrong. It’s wrong on every level,'” Sheriff Mueller said. “We stand with the community. We hurt with the community.”
They hope to continue to build positive relationships and trust with those in their community, and they plan to work together to bring about change.
“We need to listen to the African-Americans,” Sheriff Mueller said. “Why do they feel the way they feel? Tell me that perception that you have of law enforcement. Why is it there? What can we do at our agency to help change that?”
The next planned peaceful rally will be at Jolly Park in Gaffney at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Gaffney Police Department will be represented, along with the NAACP and many others from local organizations and churches.