TUSTIN (CBSLA) — An African American police sergeant’s video opening up about police brutality has led to discourse online and within his local police department.
Tustin Police Sgt. Robert Nelson recorded a cell phone video of his reaction to George Floyd’s death in May.
“To the officers that allowed that to happen, shame on you for being meek,” Nelson said in the video.
He shared his thoughts on rioting, his identity as a Black man and a law enforcement officer, and his hopes for improved community relations.
“I’m currently a sergeant. I’ve always been Black. Notice I didn’t say ‘but’ or contradict the other. It’s just what I am,” Nelson said.
“Rioting in African American culture goes as far back as Nat Turner revolting against slave traders and slave owners. I won’t justify that and I will try to teach my kids that there are other ways to effect change. That behavior comes with consequences. It gives more fuel and ammunition to conservative America to paint you as self-destructive creatures,” he continued.
Nelson said the officers involved in Floyd’s death — one of whom was seen on camera kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes — ignored pleas from onlookers.
“This may have played out differently if George was not black, but I believe more that if the crowd around him were not black, it most certainly would have played out differently,” Nelson said.
Four years ago, Sgt. Nelson was named Officer of the Year. He said he had no idea how his chief would view his personal, vulnerable message about police brutality and protests from the Black community.
According to Nelson, the video was intended for family and friends in his Compton community and fellow officers, but it has gone on to be viewed by strangers.
Chief Stu Greenberg reacted positively to Nelson’s message and ended up sharing it to the Tustin Police Department’s website, saying it is “important you hear this message.” Nelson’s video also helped launch the police department’s It Starts With Us multi-week YouTube series.
“To my law enforcement folks, we’ve got this and we can turn this thing around. Keep taking steps forward,” Nelson said.