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Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said it plainly while under oath: Derek Chauvin’s decision to kneel on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes violated police department policy.
“That action is not de-escalation,” Arradondo said in Hennepin County Court Monday. “I absolutely agree that it violates our policy. That is not part of our policy, that is not what we teach, and that shouldn’t be condoned.”
“In no way, shape, or form is what Officer Chauvin did part of our training, ethics, or values,” he added later.
The chief’s lengthy examination of the department’s policies on the sixth day of Chauvin’s murder trial was yet another example of law enforcement turning on one of their own with damning testimony. While on the stand, the chief was questioned by prosecutors about a variety of general protocols, including officers’ role as medical first responders, use of force, and de-escalation efforts.
When the state finally turned to Floyd’s arrest outside a southside convenience store on May 25 for allegedly using counterfeit money, Arradondo wasted no time condemning what took place.
“The conscious neck restraint policy mentions light to moderate pressure,” Arradondo said. “When I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear, in any way, shape or form, that that is light to moderate pressure.”
Citing department policy presented as evidence by prosecutors, Arradondo added that Chauvin should have stopped the restraint the second Floyd stopped resisting and cued that he was in distress.
“There’s initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” the Chief said. “But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way. shape or form is anything that is by policy.”
During cross-examination, however, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson prompted Arradondo to admit that department policy might not be as clear-cut as he was implying. For example, the Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force policy specifically states that an officer’s actions shouldn’t be judged by “20/20 hindsight” and that officers can be forced to make split-second decisions in “tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving” situations.
The defense also presented a portion of police body-cam video showing Chauvin applied a knee to Floyd’s shoulder blade and not his neck. In response, Arradondo pointed out that the clip only showed part of the more than nine minutes Floyd spent under Chauvin’s knee.
Throughout his testimony, Arradondo made several more statements that worked against the defense’s strategy to justify Chauvin’s actions as reasonable last May.
When asked to overview the department’s policy on de-escalation tactics, Arradondo said those efforts can include accepting the community’s help. That poked a possible hole in the defense arguments that bystanders who pleaded with police to let up on the restraint acted as a distraction to officers arresting Floyd, not concerned citizens intervening in Floyd's arrest.
Arradondo also said that officers didn’t have to arrest Floyd at all since his crime, using a counterfeit $20 bill, wasn’t a violent felony.
“There’s been a shift over the years to make sure that the individuals who are going to jail are those who, from a public safety standpoint, need to be ... in that facility. If we can properly identify that it’s not a violent situation, we can always charge via a complaint and other things.”
A number of Minneapolis civil servants have testified for the prosecution so far in the trial. Last week, a paramedic said there was no reason the police couldn’t have given Floyd chest compressions after he lost consciousness. On Thursday and Friday, jurors also heard from several members of the Minneapolis Police Department, including Chauvin’s former sergeant who also said Chauvin’s restraint should have stopped as soon as Floyd stopped resisting arrest. And the most senior officer at the Minneapolis Police Department called Chauvin’s actions “unnecessary.”
Chauvin is facing second- and third-degree murder charges as well as second-degree manslaughter charges. If convicted, he faces up to 65 years in prison. The trial is expected to last another three weeks.