A Minneapolis police trainer who instructed Derek Chauvin in the use of force on Tuesday told the former officer’s murder trial that placing a knee on a suspect’s neck when they are already subdued “is not authorized.”
Lieutenant Johnny Mercil told the court that at the time George Floyd was arrested in May last year, police department policy still permitted the use of neck restraints using an arm or side of a leg when a suspect was being “assaultive.”
However, the training did not include the use of a knee, as Chauvin used, Mercil said.
Putting a knee to the neck is “not unauthorized” in making an arrest, but it is not permitted if the suspect is in handcuffs or otherwise subdued, he said.
Chauvin, 45, has denied charges of second and third-degree murder, and manslaughter, over Floyd’s death, which prompted mass protests across the US and other parts of the world.
He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder, and manslaughter.
Mercil, a martial arts expert specializing in Brazilian jujutsu, said he trained officers that the use of force has to be reasonable when it starts and when it stops.
The prosecution is seeking to show that even if Chauvin felt that he was using a legitimate level of force when Floyd was on the ground, keeping his knee on the man for more than nine minutes was not reasonable.
Officers are trained to use force in proportion “to level of resistance that you’re getting,” Mercil said.
The prosecutor showed Mercil a picture of Chauvin restraining Floyd as he lay prone and asked if that level of force would be authorized “if the subject was under control and handcuffed.”
“I would say no,” Mercil said.
A police training manual showed an officer placing his knee on the back of a neck during handcuffing, but Mercil said that the picture showed the knee was on the shoulder and it was the shin across the neck.
The distinction is crucial because it means the pressure point is away from where it is most dangerous, he said.
Mercil was the latest in a succession of Chauvin’s former colleagues to give evidence for the prosecution.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sergeant Ker Yang, a 24-year Minneapolis police veteran who now heads training in crisis intervention, said that Chauvin was instructed to recognize whether a detained individual is in crisis and needs medical assistance.
Intoxication from drugs or alcohol “can be a crisis,” Yang said.
Floyd’s girlfriend has testified that he was addicted to opioids and another witness said that he appeared to be high shortly before his arrest.
The defense asked Yang whether a detained person in crisis might increase the risk to the officer because of other threats, such as hostile bystanders, to which Yang agreed.
Defense lawyer Eric Nelson has said that Chauvin felt threatened by an increasingly angry group of people demanding that he release Floyd, and that distracted him from paying full attention to the detained man’s condition.
One of the challenges for the prosecution is to persuade the jury that Chauvin, and not the Minneapolis police department, bears responsibility for the methods he used.
The day began with an attempt by Morries Hall, a passenger in the vehicle with Floyd at the time of his detention, to invoke his fifth-amendment right against self-incrimination and not give evidence.
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