Testimony continued Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on May 25.
Police chief says Chauvin violated multiple policies
The city’s top cop testified Monday that Chauvin putting his knee on Floyd’s neck wasn’t allowed by the department’s use of force policy.
“That is not what we teach, and that shouldn’t be condoned,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.
Arradondo testified that typically police would respond to a report of a person passing a fake $20 bill — as alleged in this case — but the person wouldn’t be taken into custody.
Arradondo said Chauvin went against Minneapolis Police Department policy on use of force, de-escalation, neck restraints and rendering aid to someone in distress.
Under MPD policy, a neck restraint can be used for someone actively resisting officers, the chief said, but not for people passively resisting.
Officers are required to consider whether someone is not complying deliberately, or if instead they’re unable to comply due to things like drug or alcohol impairment or a behavioral crisis.
He said his officers are required to treat people with dignity and respect, consider verbally announcing their intent to use force when reasonable, and use de-escalation tactics to avoid or minimize the use of force.
Asked when the use of force should have ended, Arradondo said Floyd had stopped resisting, and “clearly” the force should have stopped when Floyd was motionless.
“To continue to apply that level of force to a person prone, down, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy,” he said. “It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”
He said the sanctity of life and protection of the public have been the cornerstones of the department’s use of force policy since 2016.
“Of all the things we do… it is my firm belief, the one singular thing we’ll be judged forever on is our use of force,” Arradondo said.
During cross-examination, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, got Arradondo to acknowledge the reasonableness of force must be judged by the officer on scene rather than with 20/20 hindsight. He also agreed officers are often forced to make split-second judgements about the amount of force needed.
Nelson asked the chief about the prevalence of people videotaping use of force incidents and indicated officers were reducing their exposure to a “potential threat” of the crowd by using concealment and verbal techniques. Arradondo said a 2016 policy allows the public to record police activities as long as they don’t obstruct police.
Nelson showed two body-worn camera videos that Arradondo agreed indicate Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s shoulder blade, not his neck, as it appears in the bystander video that went viral. The different angles captured the scene as paramedics were arriving, however, well after Floyd had gone motionless.
ER doctor says asphyxia caused heart to stop
The emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead also testified Monday that he concluded Floyd’s heart stopped due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxia.
The defense has argued a drug overdose and heart disease caused Floyd’s death.
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld was a senior resident the night Floyd was rushed to the Hennepin County Medical Center while in cardiac arrest with no pulse, after paramedics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes.
Asked whether Floyd’s heart beat on its own at all while in the hospital, Langenfeld said, “Not to a degree sufficient to sustain life.”
During cross-examination, the physician acknowledged he didn’t know about Floyd’s drug use when he arrived, and that certain drugs — such as those found in Floyd’s system — can cause oxygen deficiency, too. He also said Floyd’s carbon dioxide level was more than twice what you’d expect in a healthy person, which fentanyl can cause by depressing ventilation levels.
Langenfeld added that once the heart stops and blood stops flowing to tissues, that can also elevate carbon dioxide levels.
Before the trial resumed Monday morning, Judge Peter Cahill cut the trial’s audio and video feeds and cryptically questioned the jurors about whether they’d seen something on social media.
Without giving details, he asked them whether they’d seen a certain phrase or person, and none of them said they had.
After the jury left, Cahill said he found the jury was credible and there was no jury misconduct so he would take no action.
“This was nothing more than social media nonsense,” he said, according to the courtroom reporter. He said he cut the audio and video because, “I do not want to encourage internet trolls and this kind of nonsense.”
‘I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is’
Minneapolis Police Commander Katie Blackwell is in charge of the field training program, and selected Chauvin — whom she has known for almost 20 years — to be a field training officer.
She verified records showing Chauvin was trained annually on use of force and defensive tactics, trained to render aid and trained since the police academy to avoid causing positional asphyxia — meaning inability to breathe — by moving the person to their side or upright as soon as possible.
Asked whether placing a knee on a person’s neck is a trained technique, she said no.
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is; it’s not what we trained,” she said.
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