Derek Chauvin’s trial has become a treasure trove of witnesses confirming the former Minneapolis police officer used excessive force when he killed George Floyd last year in broad daylight. The latest account comes from a senior officer with training experience who weighed in on whether his kneeling technique was up to code or not.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.
NPR reports that Inspector Katie Blackwell, commander of the department’s police training division, testified in front of a jury that Chauvin went against training when kneeling his entire bodyweight on Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020.
“Is this a trained technique … by the Minneapolis Police Department when you were overseeing the training?” prosecutor Steven Schleicher asked.
“It is not,” Blackwell responded
“Why not?” Schleicher probed.
“Per policy, a neck restraint is compressing one or both sides of the neck, using an arm or a leg. But what we train is using one arm or two arms to do a neck restraint,” she said.
“And how does this differ?”
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is. So that’s not what we train,” she said.
Blackwell, who knew Chauvin for 20 years while on the force, explained that officers are taught the dangers of limiting a person’s ability to breathe, called “positional asphyxia.”
“How long have you known about the dangers of positional asphyxia?” Schleicher asked.
“We were taught about positional asphyxia all the way back to my academy,” Blackwell said.
Officers are taught to put a person on their side “as soon as possible” when a person is “under control,” Blackwell said.
In an earlier court appearance, a Minneapolis Police Department’s top homicide detective testified how “totally unnecessary” it was for Chauvin to kneel on Floyd while handcuffed during their deadly interaction.
“Once the person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman told jurors at Chauvin’s murder trial.
When prosecutors asked if he was trained to kneel on a person, he said no “because if your knee is on someone’s neck — that could kill them.”
He pointed out that the actions taken that day were “uncalled for” and “totally unnecessary,” which was a severe blow to the defense’s argument.
“You need to get them off their chest,” the veteran investigator explained. “If you’re lying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”
Blackwell and Zimmerman are two of many witnesses who have taken the stand during Chauvin’s trial since it started last week Monday. Almost all have said the actions take that day was devastating and excessive.