Trial in Floyd’s death expected to turn to ex-cop’s training

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd’s death was expected to turn toward the officer’s training after a first week that was dominated by emotional testimony from eyewitnesses and devastating video of Floyd’s arrest.

Derek Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd. Chauvin, who is white, is accused of pinning his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd lay face-down in handcuffs outside of a corner market.

Prosecutors said Chauvin’s knee killed Floyd. The defence argues that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s use of drugs and underlying health conditions caused his death.

Floyd’s treatment by police was captured on widely seen bystander video that soon sparked protests that rocked Minneapolis and quickly spread to other United States (US) cities and beyond.

The video, plus officers’ body-camera video and previously unseen bystander footage, was a heavy component of the first week of the trial, reawakening traumatic memories for viewers of the livestreamed trial.

File photo of defence attorney Eric Nelson (L) and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. PHOTO: AP

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is expected to testify during the trial’s second week.

Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s death, and in June called it “murder”.

“George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there,” Arradondo said then. “Chauvin knew what he was doing.”

The city moved soon after Floyd’s death to ban police chokeholds and neck restraints. Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey have also made several policy changes, including expanding requirements for reporting use-of-force incidents and documenting their attempts to de-escalate situations even when force isn’t used.

Prosecutors have already called supervisory officers to build the case that Chauvin improperly restrained Floyd. A duty sergeant and a lieutenant who leads the homicide division both questioned Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd after officers responded to a report that Floyd had passed a counterfeit USD20 bill.

“Totally unnecessary,” Lt Richard Zimmerman, the longest-tenured officer on the force, testified on Friday. He said once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force”.

Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985, said he has never been trained to kneel on someone’s neck if their hands are cuffed behind their back and they are in the prone position.

Officers are supposed to get a person out of the position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing, he said.