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'We want to be part of that change': Columbia Police Chief on protests, next steps

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook discussed with News 19 what next steps his department is taking.
Credit: WLTX

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Capital City has seen protests everyday for nearly two weeks. Now many are fighting for changes in the way law enforcement departments work. 

RELATED: 'The system is broken': Protesters bring demands to State House steps

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook discussed with News 19 what next steps his department is taking.

"In order to talk about the next steps we need to talk about the path forward," Holbrook said.

Holbrook said the past few weeks have been difficult for his department, the Columbia, and the world. But in order to move forward with change he said he welcomes conversations and will continue to listen to concerns.

"If you look at the eight can't wait proposals, it talks about banning choke holds, requiring deescalation, requiring warning shots or warnings before shootings, exhaust all alternatives before shootings, duty to intervene, banning shooting at moving vehicles, establishing force continuum and requiring use of force to be reported," Holbrook said. "We almost exclusively do everything that's being asked there."

Holbrook said out of those eight, duty to intervene is one of the most important three words in policy to date.

"Had officers intervened in Minneapolis we would not be having this type of conversation at the moment," Holbrook said. "There has been tremendous reform and we clearly have to listen some more and I think there are more things we can do, tighten up on and clarify."

RELATED: Independent autopsy says George Floyd died from 'asphyxiation from sustained pressure'

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Since the death of George Floyd, many across the nation have also pushed for defunding of police.

"I'm not sure what that public safety model would look like if we did not have police officers," Holbrook said. "That's one of the core functions of government, to protect your citizens. So, maybe we need to define our role in how we protect citizens differently."

Meanwhile inside the Columbia Police Department Holbrook said his officers are also frustrated and have similar concerns as those protesting.

"They're hurt. They feel like we had some officers that let this profession down and it's created significant issues and really undermined all the progress and reform that we have made," Holbrook said. "We understand, we want to be part of that change, part of that conversation."

Last week Holbrook along with some of his officers joined the protesters to take a knee.

RELATED: Columbia police chief joins protesters, kneels with them

"My gut told me that those that were standing there were not those that were trying to harm us Saturday, and I felt like it was what we needed to do," Holbrook said. "I think it's important we focus on what's positive and what we can do to effect change, meaningful change."

Holbrook said his officers will continue to protect the rights of protesters, continue to listen and be open to change.