East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo and East Hampton Village Mayor Richard Lawler, a former police officer, last week condemned the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis “at the hands of four uniformed police officers,” as Chief Sarlo put it, also expressing appreciation for the peaceful protests that have been held on the East End.
“Police Officers share the shock and outrage with the community, yet we also take these callous actions as an assault on not just Mr. Floyd and people of color, but on the equity and trust we work so hard as a department to develop,” Chief Sarlo wrote in an open letter to the community on Thursday, June 4. He said the department stands up for “the fair and equitable treatment of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality or ethnicity” and fosters a relationship in which “the enforcement of laws, protection of life and property are paramount yet delivered with impartial professionalism.”
Mr. Lawler, who worked for the East Hampton Town Police Department for 35 years, echoed the current chief’s anger at the treatment of Mr. Floyd by the Minneapolis police officers.
“I am both saddened and outraged at the murder of George Floyd,” he said in a statement he read aloud at the East Hampton Village Board meeting on June 4. “There is no reason, justification or excuse that can support such senseless an abhorrent action. I pray for George Floyd and his family and friends. This is not a time to incite more violence and injustice, but a time to make change.”
Chief Sarlo emphasized the community policing model that he said the East Hampton Town Police Department follows, and he noted the mandatory “Bias Free Policing” training that officers must take. He said the training sessions bring in leaders of minority communities to speak with all of the department’s officers.
“We choose to lead the cause for justice and fairness in law enforcement, while understanding there is no perfect officer or department, so we must always continue to evaluate and improve,” he wrote.
He called for an end to “continuous assaults” on police officers “struggling through dangerous and impossible circumstances,” but said that East Hampton Town Police officers feel they have the support of their community.
“We recognize how the images of this injustice can challenge the trust in law enforcement, and we remain committed to continue our course of service and promote the values and principles which have earned that trust over the years,” he wrote, nodding to the fact that the protesters who have flooded local hamlets for protests have been respectful and restrained. “We are honored by the peaceful show of unity here on the East End.”
Mr. Lawler also implored those enraged by the death of Mr. Floyd and the long history of unequal treatment of black Americans by the legal system to use the “darkness” of the moment to “find a light to show us the way to compassion and understanding for all lives.”
“I want us all to support finding meaningful and peaceful ways to elicit change and be part a process,” he said, “that finally produces a world where no man, woman or child fears living.”