Lt. Johnny Mercil, the Minneapolis Police Department’s use-of-force instructor, testified on Tuesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin’s trial that when officers are taught ways to restrain aggressive suspects, they are shown how to place their knee on a back or shoulder and told to “stay away from the neck when possible.”
Chauvin, 45, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died on May 25, 2020, while being arrested in Minneapolis on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill. A bystander recorded Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, and Floyd is heard in the video saying he cannot breathe. Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, has argued in court that Chauvin was doing “exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.”
Records submitted to the court on Tuesday show that in 2016, Chauvin took a 40-hour course on how to de-escalate situations involving people in crisis, and in 2018 underwent training in the use of force. Mercil said officers who attended the course were told they needed to use the least amount of force required to get a suspect to cooperate.
Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, also testified on Tuesday as a prosecution use-of-force expert. Stiger said when Floyd was resisting efforts to get him into a squad car, officers were justified in using force, but once he was on the ground and no longer resisting, officers “should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.” After watching video of Floyd’s arrest, Stiger said his “opinion was that the force was excessive.”
Several members of the Minneapolis Police Department, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, echoed this sentiment during earlier testimony. On Monday, Arradondo testified that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes “absolutely” violated department policy, adding, “This is not what we teach.” Catherine Garcia