Northeast Florida police vigilant as tensions rise over man’s death in Minneapolis

George Floyd died while in custody of police in Minneapolis

As tensions flare between protestors and Minneapolis police following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody, law enforcement leaders across the nation -- including Northeast Florida -- are voicing outrage over what happened.

“This video of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis is gut wrenching for law enforcement officers that go out there day in and day out, trying to do the absolute best they can to serve their communities," said Joseph Wells, deputy chief with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, who is a retired Jacksonville police officer, also shared his feelings.

“Yes. I’m angry at it," Jefferson said. “I’m angry at the actions of law enforcement because that’s not the kind of work I signed up for.”

Rep. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville sheriff, posted the following on Twitter:

Police officers all over the country already have a dangerous job, but now that danger could be escalated after the video surfaced online. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the National Guard on Thursday as looting broke out in St. Paul, and Minneapolis braced for more violence in response to the video.

“The civil unrest that’s going on now in our nation, particularly in Minneapolis should remind every law enforcement officer whose out on the streets that they have to be on alert," Jefferson said. "They have to be cognizant that people are upset after watching this video. Some are mad, and some want to take matters in their own hand and try to right what they consider the wrong.”

Retaliation against police is something we saw four years ago when a man fatally ambushed multiple Dallas police officers following fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is taking steps to keep deputies safe.

“We are having some communications with our deputies to make sure that they understand the effects this can have on the community," Wells said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issued a statement that reads: “As officers putting the uniform on every day, we must remain vigilante for any threats from those possibly wanting to do harm in our community. We will remain so, despite events that may take place in other parts of the nation.”

Both the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office echoed that statement. Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels then issued his own statement that reads: “The men and women of law enforcement understand the inherent dangers of our profession. Those dangers have never stood in the way of our zeal to serve society.”

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper released a statement that reads in part:

“Police work is inherently dangerous as officers are always dealing with people at their worst. Law enforcement officers face a constant threat of injury or even death when they confront suspects or respond to dangerous situations. But a big part of our job is to help people. We want our employees to be a good representative of our agency and don’t do anything to bring disrespect to themselves, their co-workers, their family or our organization. What they do, how they act, and how they treat others is always under their control.”

This weekend, the Northside Coalition will hold a demonstration in front of JSO headquarters to protest police brutality.

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