Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters on Monday wrote an open letter to the people his department serves, pledging “what happened in Minneapolis is not a representation of your police department.”
He is referring, of course, to the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died while a white officer knelt on him for several minutes. Citizen video captured Floyd’s death as three other Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers looked on but did not intervene.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired shortly afterward and has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, both felonies.
“We never want this to happen in our community and we are dedicated beyond measure to ensuring it doesn’t,” McPheeters wrote.
An Open Letter from the Casper Police Chief to Our Community
June 1st, 2020
We are angry too.
George Floyd did not deserve to die.
We have all seen the horrific video footage of George Floyd’s tragic death. We’ve seen it and we are appalled. We are disgusted that someone trusted to protect and serve others as a police officer would so callously treat another human in this way.
But, that is not who we are – we are Casper.
As citizens of Casper, you may be looking at your police department and wondering if a situation like what happened in Minneapolis could ever happen here.
What happened in Minneapolis is not a representation of your police department. It is against the very fundamentals of our mission as we protect and serve Casper with the highest professionalism in police services – and, it’s against who we are. It is, however, an opportunity for us to learn. We never want this to happen in our community and we are dedicated beyond measure to ensuring that it doesn’t.
Last week, I commissioned a critical review of the death of George Floyd and created a meaningful discussion forum for every one of our police officers. We reviewed the heartbreaking video footage of George Floyd and together we are having important conversations regarding race and our role as police officers to help – not hinder – the progress that needs to be made in our country.
If we resort to using force on a citizen, it is thoroughly reviewed and investigated. We seek ways to improve and learn. Any complaint we receive, regardless of how it is received, or who it is received from, is rigorously reviewed and investigated.
It is against our policy and our beliefs to wait idly by when another officer is acting outside of our values. When we see something wrong, we act and we are accountable – even if we are the ones at fault.
We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year training our officers on many subjects – including implicit bias and how to safely and humanely take individuals into custody. We train, and then we do it again, and again, and again.
As a member of our community, you should know that your police officers are honest, they have integrity, and they treat all people with respect. These are your police officers. They hold as sacred their dedication to the protection and safety of Casper, honoring it with the gravity it deserves.
I ask that you continue to trust the members of the Casper Police Department: the men and women behind the badge that work tirelessly every day to earn and maintain your trust. Together, we, as a community, can learn from the past, and commit to a better future. We stand with you in a call for change and a better tomorrow. At the Casper Police Department, we remain steadfast in our commitment to improving every day.
The Casper Police Department dedicates significant portions of its budget and resources to ensure that we are constantly representing our community in the most professional way. Even in these difficult economic times, and at a time when we are consistently working short-handed, we have still consecrated six, full-time staff, including a Lieutenant, two Sergeants, and three veteran officers, to ensure our police force is an ethical, well-trained, professional Police Department.
We hear the nation’s cry to do better at identifying and removing from our ranks the police officers who do not live up to our society’s expectations and to our Department’s lofty standards. We despise bad officers more than anyone.
Every candidate for a police officer position with the Casper Police Department undergoes a rigorous and exhaustive process to ensure we are hiring the right type of person to serve our citizens. Each candidate is subjected to an exhaustive background investigation. We talk to their family members, spouses, and even ex-spouses. We go to their community and we meet their neighbors, employers, and associates. We review their social media history, and also that of their ‘friends’, for inappropriate material or evidence of opinions or beliefs contrary to our standards. We speak to every police agency in every city they have ever lived in. We review their credit to ensure they are accountable to their obligations. We review their entire life history. We then meet face-toface with them to make sure we personally believe they are a good match for our community.
The few that survive the background investigation are then subjected to even more intrusive testing and evaluation. Each candidate undergoes a thorough, 7-step, psychological evaluation by trained industry experts in the field of mental health who specialize in looking for mal-adaptive behaviors, psychopathy, and mental illness, as well as the candidate’s capacity to learn and adapt to our community’s standards and the rigors of a law enforcement career. No candidate is considered who cannot meet these demanding standards.
Remaining candidates are then subjected to a comprehensive polygraph evaluation to ensure they have been truthful throughout the entire process. Our polygraph process eliminates candidates even when all else has indicated they appear to be an excellent choice for our community.
In the end, for every one hundred applications we receive, on average, only two make it through the process to serve you, the incredible people of Casper, Wyoming.
Our ability to protect and serve our community can only be done if the people of this community trust we will do the right thing with the responsibility we have been given. We strive every day to prove to you that you can count on us. We join you in a call for a change and a better tomorrow.
We support the rights of our citizens to safely and publically express their outrage. More importantly, we encourage and welcome our community to join with their police department in facilitating the productive dialogue that will be required to create enduring change.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters