Chauvin trial: Cop violated policy by kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, police chief testifies

Derek Chauvin Trial

MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — The Minneapolis police chief testified Monday that now-fired Officer Derek Chauvin violated departmental policy in pinning his knee on George Floyd’s neck and keeping him down after Floyd had stopped resisting and was in distress.

Continuing to kneel on Floyd’s neck once he was handcuffed behind his back and lying on his stomach was “in no way, shape or form” part of department policy or training, “and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.

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Arradondo said he was alarmed when, a few hours after the arrest, he first saw a bystander’s video showing Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, for more than nine minutes. The video sparked global protests against police brutality, at points turning violent.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. Prosecutors have called Arradondo and other police officers to undermine Chauvin’s defense that he did only what he was trained to do in his 19 years as a police officer.

Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s death last May, and in June called it “murder.”

“Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there,” Arradondo said in June 2020. “Chauvin knew what he was doing.”

On Monday, Arradondo said it was unusual for police to take someone into custody where the alleged crime was as minor as in the case of Floyd, who was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes at the Cup Foods grocery store, a non-violent misdemeanor.

A prosecutor asked him to explain to the jury how police officers receive extensive training on how to use force and to reduce tensions.

“We are oftentimes the first face of government our community will see, and we will often meet them at their worst moments,” he told the jury when asked to describe the meaning of the badge the city’s roughly 700 sworn officers wear. “That has to count for something.”

Officers carry tourniquets and are trained how to use them to treat gunshot wounds, they are taught how to do chest compressions, and they are given naloxone inhalers that can be used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, Arradondo said.

He was asked to read aloud parts of the department’s code of ethics.

“It’s really about treating people with dignity and respect above all else,” he told the jury.

Chauvin did not follow his training in several different ways, Arradondo said. Chauvin used too much pressure on Floyd’s neck, Arradondo said, pointing to police training that he said emphasized the “sanctity of life.”

Chauvin also did not “de-escalate” the situation even as Floyd fell unconscious, and he did not provide the mandated first aid to a dying Floyd, Arradondo said.

Arradondo, who joined the department in 1989, also said officers receive annual training reminding them of department policies on giving first aid to people who need medical care.

“It’s very vital,” Arradondo said of the first-aid training officers receive, “because those seconds are vital.”

Prosecutors have already called supervisory officers to build the case that Chauvin improperly restrained Floyd. A duty sergeant and a lieutenant who leads the homicide division both questioned Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd after officers responded to a report that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill.

“Totally unnecessary,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-tenured officer on the force, testified Friday. He said once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”

Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985, said he has never been trained to kneel on someone’s neck if their hands are cuffed behind their back, and they are in the prone position. Officers are supposed to get a person out of the position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing, he said.

Arradondo’s testimony came after the emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead testified that he theorized at the time that Floyd’s heart most likely stopped because of a lack of oxygen. Dr. Bradford Langenfeld also testified that Floyd’s heart had stopped by the time he arrived at the hospital. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. All reporting by the AP’s Amy Foliti and Tammy Webber, and Reuters’ Jonathan Allen

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