The killing of George Floyd by police was a tragedy and I personally am appalled by what I saw in the video. It was a betrayal of trust the community places in law enforcement. I, as Chief of the Cornell Police, recognize that is a trust that must be earned each day, each call, each interaction. Earning that trust is a cornerstone of modern policing. As President Pollack stated on Friday, as a university community we are committed to addressing racism directly through our educational programs, in our research and in our engagement and related activities.
The Cornell University Police has a detailed use of force policy that meets the standards of federal and state law as well as the standards set by our accrediting agency, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Our policy limits the use of lethal force to situations where an officer in compelled to act in order to protect themselves or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.
Our policy also provides alternatives to use of lethal force, such as using proper techniques specifically designed to use only the force that is reasonable and necessary for the circumstances present at the scene of the incident. It further requires officers to assess subjects for injuries after any use of force and then provide appropriate medical assistance.
But, policy alone does not assure our community that officers are acting appropriately which is why the Cornell University Police have a thorough hiring and background check process for all of our staff. After hire, and in addition to the police academy training, we have an extensive field training program for officers that not only teaches them the technical skills needed for law enforcement but the cultural skills required to effectively serve our diverse community. Even after the initial training, staff must regularly train on topics such as unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, and the toolkit of skills needed to help people in crisis through the use of clear communication and de-escalation techniques. Building relations with our community and instilling a guardian mindset in our staff frequently eliminates the need for any force to be used.
Finally, the Cornell University Police are committed to the principles of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to deliver fair and unbiased police services to our community. I welcome community input to assist us in implementing those principles.
— Chief David Honan