Chauvin 'trained to stay away from neck — George Floyd death

Morries Hall

Sgt. Ker Yang, the Minneapolis police official in charge of crisis-intervention training, and use-of-force instructor Lt. Johnny Mercil became the latest department members to testify as part of an effort by prosecutors to demolish the argument that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd's neck last May.

Yang said police are trained to use principles such as neutrality, respect and trust in crisis intervention situations, and how to spot and interact with suspects going through a crisis.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher noted that while some people may become more unsafe under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some may actually be "more vulnerable".

"When we talk about fast-evolving situations. a lot of the time we have the time to slow things down and reevaluate and reassess and go through this model", Yang said.

According to testimony and records submitted Tuesday, Chauvin took a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognize people in crisis - including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use - and how to use de-escalation techniques to calm them down. Mercil said those who attended were taught that the sanctity of life and protection of the public are the cornerstone of the department's use-of-force policy.

Mercil agreed under questioning that some people make excuses to avoid arrest, and that he has had suspects say "I can't breathe" when he was trying to arrest them.

"We tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible". He said officers are not taught to use their legs or knees, though a knee on the neck can happen depending on a person's resistance.

But Schleicher asked Mercil once a subject is under control and no longer resistant, whether it's inappropriate to hold them in a position where the knee is across their back or neck.

"I don't know what kind of improvised position that is" she said, after being shown a photo of Chauvin with his knee on Mr Floyd's neck.

Officer Nicole Mackenzie, who trained officers including Chauvin in how and when to perform CPR, also testified.

Eric Nelson left and Derek Chauvin right listen as Judge Peter Cahill presides in the murder trial
Eric Nelson left and Derek Chauvin right listen as Judge Peter Cahill presides in the murder trial Credit Court TV

Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.

Vision of Mr Floyd's violent arrest, and subsequent death, was broadcast around the globe, and re-ignited a debate about anti-black racism spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Before he was pinned to the ground, a frantic Mr Floyd struggled with police who were trying to put him in a squad vehicle, saying he was claustrophobic.

Nelson has further argued that police at the scene were distracted by what they perceived as a growing and increasingly hostile crowd of onlookers.

Nelson also questioned Mercil about safety precautions officers need to take when using neck restraints and using body weight to restrain individuals.

Mr Mercil testified that based on the training that officers receive, Mr Chauvin should only have used that manner of neck restraint if there was "active aggression" involved.

Several experienced officers, including the police chief himself, have testified that Floyd should not have been kept pinned to the pavement for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors' reckoning as the Black man lay face-down, his hands cuffed behind his back.

Mr Arradondo testified not only that Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the force, should have let Floyd up sooner, but that the pressure on Floyd's neck did not appear to be light to moderate, as called for under the department's neck-restraint policy.

Chauvin's lawyer contends that Floyd, an African American, died from underlying health issues and that Chauvin followed his police training in the way in which the 46-year-old Floyd was arrested.