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Punta Gorda police chief speaks on George Floyd, importance of community

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, the City of Austin, Texas is slashing its police budget by one third so city council can spend that $150 million to increase social services.

The police chief’s reaction Friday? It’s going to make doing the job so much tougher.

WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko talked to Punta Gorda Police Chief Pam Davis to get her take on how difficult it is to wear a uniform in 2020.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time not long ago when just about everyone respected people in law enforcement.

Davis said she felt that way during her days on the streets, before she took charge in Punta Gorda.

There are lots of tough days when you’re a cop. Davis said her toughest day was 9/11.

She was a cop in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

“I was home for the day. We were, like, scrambling to get back in because as soon as that happened, everyone wanted to get in, back in to the department to be there to help our, protect our county,” she said.

After those terrorist attacks, the nation hailed everyone in uniform as heroes.

“You came into a room and everybody was thanking you for your service. It was such a good feeling back then just to be a citizen here in the U.S., let alone a police officer,” Davis said.

RELATED: Punta Gorda police chief speaks on public’s confidence in police, gender discrimination

Now, police officers are targets of some people’s anger. Sometimes for good reason, like in the case of George Floyd.

“Unacceptable,” Davis said of what happened to Floyd. “Unacceptable. It…wow.  What a complete failure to that community that those officers did.”

The resulting protests? Davis didn’t have any problem with them when they were peaceful. She does have a problem, however, with the demand to defund the police.

“That is sort of just a knee jerk reaction and for people to automatically say, ‘Yup, that’s what we should be doing,’ I don’t think they’ve thought through the how that would look,” she explained.

Davis said some larger cities don’t spend money in the community helping people who live paycheck to paycheck, who suffer from mental illness, who need social services. In Punta Gorda, her department works to build trust with the people it serves.

“We’ve added a citizens advisory council, a business advisory council, we’re a member of the community task force, which is headed by the local president of the local chapter of the NAACP,” she said.

But Davis says there’s nothing more important than building relationships one-on-one.

“Go out, don’t stay in your office all day, get out there and interact with the community. I think that would help us move forward.”

She said transparency between police and the community is critical. That’s why the city’s worked for the last 18 months to get body cameras for its officers.

She also said she demands every officer treat every member of the public with dignity and respect. If that doesn’t happen, she wants to know about it.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Briana Harvath
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