ST PAUL, Minn — Evidence about Minneapolis Police Department policies and training is expected to be the focus as testimony resumes for a second week in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights.
Federal prosecutors say former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao didn’t follow their training when they failed to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, as fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Inspector Katie Blackwell, the police department’s former head of training, is expected to be back on the witness stand Monday.
Blackwell began her testimony last week, saying that officers are instructed that they have a duty to intervene if a fellow officer is using unreasonable force. She said officers are taught to use the least amount of force necessary and to stop once the person is no longer resisting. They also must render any necessary medical aid until medical personnel arrive “to make sure that we do everything we can to save a person’s life.”
She said Kueng, Lane and Thao acted in a way that was “inconsistent” with department policies.
But Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, suggested the department failed the officers. Plunkett said when officers are trained in use-of-force scenarios, intervention is not taught.
“There’s no intervention scenario, isn’t that correct?” Plunkett said.
“Not one exactly for intervention,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell also agreed that recruits are told that they should never argue with an instructor. Lane and Keung were rookies, while Chauvin was the most senior of the four officers at the scene that day.
Blackwell spent hours talking about policy and training. She said Thao took repeated refresher courses on use-of-force policies, including as recently as 2018 and 2019, and that Lane and Kueng had repeated lessons on the same subjects while attending the academy in 2019.
Officers had responded to a 911 call about Floyd, 46, trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Bystander cellphone video of the killing triggered worldwide protests and a reexamination of racism and policing.
Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. One count against all three officers alleges that they saw that Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng contends that they didn’t intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors have argued that the “willful” standard can be met by showing “blatantly wrongful conduct” that deprived Floyd of his rights.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge. Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.