Brandon Bartlett talks with law enforcement expert about policing protests across the country


(WEHT) — Some fear the message of justice for George Floyd is being overshadowed by the acts of violence and looting.

Mark Herrera has over two decades of law enforcement experience and is on the Department of Homeland Security’s sub-sector council. He talked to our Brandon Bartlett Wednesday night.


Brandon Bartlett: It’s another night of protests across the country tonight over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters are once again taking to the streets tonight of several cities hoping for justice and change. Some protests are peaceful, others have turned violent at times. Some fear that the message of justice for George Floyd has been overshadowed by acts of violence and looting. Joining me live tonight to talk about this from Texas is Mark Herrera. He has over two decades of law enforcement experience and is on the Department of Homeland Security subsector counsel. Mark, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Now, this is a tough time to be a police officer. For one, all officers are being scrutinized right now after what happened in Minneapolis, but at the same time, they had to try and maintain order in their cities as people protest. As a retired police commander, what are your thoughts on what you’ve been seeing play out across the country every night this past week?

Mark Herrera: Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Brandon. And I will say that what we’re seeing right now is an example of a group of anarchist crowds that are affecting those that are attempting to reasonably exercise their First Amendment right and what we’ve observed as injustice. You know, as a retired police officer, I can tell you right now, that based on what I have been seeing, and what I saw that day regarding these police officers is that it’s absolutely unacceptable, and rightfully so, the voices of those that are out protesting needs to be heard. But at the same time, we have to make reasonable efforts that when we exercise the First Amendment right, we’ve got to do it in such a way that allows us to get allows individuals and people to get their point across without going into an anarchistic approach where thereby affecting people that ultimately these business owners and I can tell you right now some police officers, support the fact that what happened was injustice. As I speak to police officers and I receive calls from them regularly, I can tell you that they are very angry and upset and very disappointed, embarrassed as to what happened. But I will say this, you know, as this continues to escalate across the country, in response to the death of George Floyd, we need to remember that his death was a result of actions of one officer. And we should not use this situation or video to draw those sweeping generalizations about the intentions of thousands of first responders and law enforcement officers across the country. The men and women that put their lives on the line every day that would die to protect us all because those are the folks that are out there that are actually also in conjunction with your black community suffering as well. As you know, the mortality rate with police officers when something like this happens basically is off the grid. So, again, the protesters have moved past the call for social justice and into chaos and anarchy.

BB: I wanted to ask you as a police commander with many years of experience, do you think that police departments have a problem with racial bias?

MH: I wouldn’t say that police departments in general, but I would say that they are no different than with any organization out there. You’re going to have those few that have other intentions and other motives. I look at it this way, you can’t guarantee that every organization and every agency is 100% those that have sworn the office to take on their their current roles as police officers are all going to be honorable at the end of the day. There’s always going to be potentially one or two, and you just don’t know until they’re placed in these situations. But again, I wouldn’t say that all police officers in general, but I would say that you do have those that are sprinkled within the different departments that could potentially be and those are the ones that need to be weeded out because those are the ones that are affecting our communities today.

BB: I want to ask you about the latest developments today regarding the four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin had the murder charges against him upgraded and now the three other officers involved have been charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd. Will this change the way that officers who are sent to a scene to assist in making an arrest involve themselves? Do you think they may speak up more now when they see something happen that concerns them?

MH: Absolutely. What a great example to set. In my opinion, I say give them first degree straight across the board. It’s going to send a very strong message in that those police officers that are a part of affecting an arrest or controlling an individual or a crowd, they’re going to have to be very careful and basically police each other, you know, all it would have taken was one officer to tap on the shoulder of the one officer that had his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd. And that in itself could have been enough to say, hey, you know, there was an attempt a reasonable attempt to try to prevent that from happening. But that wasn’t ever done, so again, there’s going to be more of an effort for police officers to receive soft skills, be able to communicate, they’re going to try they have to be inoculated in these conditions a little bit more in a training environment so they can effectively deal with this. I’m gonna tell you right now, when the crowd density is high, first of all, or when you have, as you said, when you have an officer that is involved in a situation where you have someone that is non compliant, if that officers never been exposed to that condition or situation and he had received or had a heart rate spike, over 175 beats per minute, that officer that is emotionally attached to that situation is going to suffer certain physiological effects as well. And one of them is cognitive impairment, which is the inability to utilize good sound judgment to control that situation. So I always say that officers need to train in the environments they’re going to be exposed to, but in a controlled environment so that they can deal with those situations a lot better.

BB: All right, a lot of great insight tonight, Mark Herrera, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.

MH: Thank you, Brandon. It’s truly my pleasure.

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