Windsor Police Const. Arjei Franklin admits he can’t bring himself to watch the bystander video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd, killing the unarmed black man in the process.
“I didn’t want to see it. I heard the details. I’ve seen the images. My heart broke and I felt sick to my stomach,” said Franklin.
Even so, Franklin — a former CFL player who joined the force in 2018 — posted his thoughts about the incident on Facebook.
“It’s sometimes hard being a black police officer. I feel as though I may be viewed as a ‘sellout’ in the black community, especially if I don’t publicly speak out against the injustice,” the post read. “George Floyd was murdered, and it makes me so angry as both a black man and a police officer.”
Speaking with CBC News, Franklin said he felt a responsibility as an officer to share his opinion on a public platform. That’s because before he became an officer, he always wanted to know what police thought about incidents like this.
“I think [hearing from police is] exactly what we need. As a member of the black community, I know any time this has happened in the past, we’ve always looked to the police to hear their thoughts on what happened,” said Franklin, adding he “couldn’t be silent” on the incident.
“I think it’s important for us as police officers to declare that we don’t stand for racism. We don’t stand for police brutality. We want to do our jobs in a professional, caring, loving way, still enforcing the law, still with justice — but to do it professionally.”
Protests lead to clashes with police
CBC News contacted Windsor Police Services about Franklin’s post, but they did not provide a comment.
Franklin said it was important for him to present the incident for what it was — an example that “racism still exists in this world.”
Since Floyd’s death last week, mostly peaceful daytime protests in major U.S. cities have often erupted at night into violence and destruction.
Franklin said that despite the violence, it was very encouraging to see people of all races come together in peaceful demonstrations to stand against “hatred of any type.”
WATCH | Const. Arjei Franklin says his colleagues, family commended him on expressing his feelings:
“You can’t be a good police officer and be OK with what happened to George Floyd. Seeing the police officers and the protesters walking side by side declaring that they are together in this are the images that I will remember for a very long time,” he said.
But there have also been videos and reports of police brutality during the protests.
Over the weekend in New York City, a video showed two NYPD cruisers driving into a crowd of demonstrators who were pushing a barricade against one of them, knocking several people to the ground. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.
On Friday, the Minnesota State Patrol arrested CNN journalist Omar Jimenez live on television without giving a reason, leading him and others from his crew away in handcuffs. Jimenez had just shown a protester being arrested when about half a dozen police officers surrounded him.
Abiola Afolabi, co-founder of Black Canadians for Cultural, Educational and Economic Progress, said black people have been discriminated against in the U.S. for far too long and that Floyd’s death was “the final drop.”
“I would say that the experience of the black people in the hands of the police is totally different from the other races — especially the white people,” Afolabi said.
“I think we’ll be making a mistake to address police brutality or relationship with the police force and forget the systemic racism.”
‘We are proud of him’
She said it is difficult for any black professional in their respective field, and she commends Franklin for speaking out.
“My heart melted,” Afolabi said. “We are proud of him and we are glad he’s there and representing. I’m also happy his department is behind him and supporting him and I hope it will continue like that.”
She said black officers should work to be approachable to people of colour in their communities, so they have someone to turn to and to talk to about their experiences. “Naturally, I will be able to relax and express my emotions and sentiment to a black person about racism.”
She said it’s important that people have a safe space where they can share their perspectives.
“People need to be free to say, ‘This happened to me. It upset me. I don’t like it,'” said Afolabi.