Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said he believes police officers should be held accountable for their actions.
“I still think law enforcement is the most honorable profession,” Walton said Tuesday. “Done by the most bravest men and women. They are public servants.”
Walton spoke with the Progress following the announcement of a guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Walton said until someone has truly felt their life threatened, he doesn’t think they can adequately say how much force is needed to defend themselves.
“Most people live their lives without ever having to restrain someone under the influence,” he said.
Walton said George Floyd's actions contributed greatly to his death, but overall the outcome was not favorable to anybody involved.
“I wouldn't back off of that,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of a profession that’s held by honorable men and women.”
Walton said a police officer is expected to an ugly job and now make it pleasing to the sight.
“Now more than ever, our decisions are scrutinized way past any other profession has to experience,” he said.
Rogers State University's Dr. Ken Hicks said the role of video in criminal proceedings against police officers is mixed.
“The saying, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ holds even more powerfully for the nine-plus minutes video Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the neck of a handcuffed Black man,” said Hicks, Department Head of History and Political Science and Professor of Political Science at RSU. “The defense faced a formidable burden in attempting to create reasonable doubt. It does not appear Eric Nelson was successful.”
Hicks said he hopes this verdict will be one step on a long and arduous path to reforming policing in America.
“Policing is a terribly difficult job, rendered even more dangerous by the hyperviolence of American culture, the incredibly high levels of interpersonal violence, our ongoing racial and political divisions, and the crushing poverty that plagues too many communities, providing abundant kindling for crime and violence,” he said.
Hicks said he reject the “Defund the police” argument.
“Policing is hard,” he said. “They need more resources, not fewer. As a nation we need to confront mental health in the United States, and relieve police of acting as ‘first responders’ to mental health emergencies.”
Hicks said police need to be supported, but they also must be held accountable.
The City of Claremore is not planning to issue a comment and the Claremore Police Department were not prepared to say anything at the moment.
Attempts were made late Tuesday, after the verdict was announced, to reach Oklahoma State Sen. Marty Quinn, Oklahoma State Rep. Mark LePak and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin.