ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — A lawyer for one of three former Minneapolis cops on trial for alleged civil rights violations of George Floyd said Friday the department’s training is insufficient when it comes to intervening when a colleague uses excessive force and that recruits are being told obey their senior officers.
Federal prosecutors say former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Tao were not trained when they failed to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020 when fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on a black man’s neck for 9 hours 1 minute. /2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, lying face down and suffocating. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Tao held on to passers-by.
Inspector Cathy Blackwell, the police department’s former head of training, said on Friday that officers have been trained to intervene to prevent fellow officers from using unreasonable force. They are also trained in the use of neck restraints and that officers should provide follow-up care as restraints can be dangerous. She said that Kueng, Lane and Tao acted “inconsistently” with department policy.
But Quang’s lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, objected, suggesting that it was the department that let the officers down.
Plunkett said the department’s policy is that an officer must stop or attempt to stop another officer from using improper force, noting that Blackwell ruled out “trying to stop” in her previous testimony. He also said that when officers are taught how to use force, they are not taught how to intervene.
“There is no intervention scenario, is there?” Plunkett said.
“Definitely not for meddling,” Blackwell said.
Plunkett persuaded Blackwell to agree that recruits are taught never to argue with an instructor. Lane and Keung were newcomers, and Chauvin was the oldest of the four officers present at the scene that day.
In his opening remarks, Plunkett noted that Chauvin was Queng’s field training officer and therefore had “significant influence” on his future. He also said that Chauvin called “all the shots” as the senior officer at the scene. On Friday, Plunkett said department policy required Lane to be in charge at the scene, but Chauvin took charge.
Blackwell, who testified on the second day, talked for hours about politics and teaching. She said that Tao had taken advanced courses in the politics of the use of force multiple times, including most recently in 2018 and 2019, and that Lane and Kueng took classes in the same subjects repeatedly while attending the academy in 2019.
She said officers are taught that they are required to use the least amount of force necessary and must stop as soon as the person no longer resists and then provide any necessary medical assistance they are trained to provide until medical personnel arrive “to make sure we We are doing everything we can to save a life.”
She also acknowledged that at some point, Lane stopped holding Floyd’s legs and that Kueng did not keep his knee on Floyd’s back the entire time, but said it was department policy for officers to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force.
Blackwell said she didn’t see anything to stop Tao and Kuang from stopping Chauvin. And while police bodycam video shows Lane was turned down when he asked twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side — which Blackwell says is crucial — he was still required to intervene.
Plunkett noted that the department’s policy was that officers could use their legs and arms to hold their necks, but Blackwell testified that officers were not actually trained to use their legs to do so.
Officers responded to an 911 call about Floyd, 46, trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Video footage of the murder, taken by a witness on a mobile phone, sparked protests around the world and a review of racism and policing.
Quang, black, Lane, white, and Tao, a Hmong American, are accused of willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights by acting “under cover of law” or public authority. One count against all three officers claims they saw Floyd in need of medical attention and were unable to help. The count against Thao and Kuang claims that they did not intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions led to Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors argued that the standard of “intentional” could be met by displaying “clearly misconduct” that deprived Floyd of his rights.
Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights charges. Lane, Kueng and Tao will also appear in separate state court in June on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.