MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo took the witness stand in the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday, where he said Chauvin’s actions on May 25 while fatally detaining George Floyd violated departmental policy on restraint and medical response.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher began questioning Arradondo by asking about what it means to be a police officer. To that, Arradondo said that “the badge means a lot,” explaining that a citizen’s interactions with officers could be their first — and possibly only — interaction with government. The chief says this underscores officers’ duty to treat people with dignity.
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WATCH: Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is testifying in the #DerekChauvinTrial, and described the motto of the police department and what it means.
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 5, 2021
For more than an hour, the police chief was questioned by prosecutors about his history with the force, department policy and officer training.
“Conscious neck restraint by policy mentions light to moderate pressure. When I look at exhibit 17, and when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way, shape or form that is light to moderate pressure,” Arradondo said.
In the afternoon, the questioning turned to what happened last Memorial Day, when Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck outside a south Minneapolis convenience store. Schleicher asked if Arradondo believes Chauvin followed de-escalation policy on May 25.
“I absolutely do not agree with that … that action is not de-escalation,” he said. “And when we talk about our framework of the sanctity of life and when we talk about the principles and values we have, that action goes contrary.”
WATCH: MPD Chief Arradondo, asked if Derek Chauvin followed de-escalation policy on May 25, 2020, says "I absolutely do not agree with that … That action is not de-escalation." Continues, saying Chauvin violated department policy. | WATCH LIVE: https://t.co/VialMda8jT pic.twitter.com/WGKZHPFah0
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 5, 2021
Arradondo says he believes Chauvin violated the department’s restraint policies on May 25 when he knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“That is not part of our policy, that is not what we teach and that should be condoned,” he said. “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped.”
Arradondo said he also believes Chauvin violated the department’s policy on rendering aid. Defense attorney Eric Nelson began his cross examination of Arradondo by asking him how long it’s been since he last arrested a suspect.
“It’s been many years, sir,” Arradondo said.
Much of Nelson’s questioning focused on the difference between departmental best practices and policy and the situational nature of MPD policies. He also asked Arradondo if he would agree that the use of force is not an attractive notion.
“I would say that use of force is something most officers would rather not use,” Arradondo said.
Chauvin and three other former police officers were fired by Arradondo within 24 hours of Floyd’s death. He is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors say that Chauvin, who is White, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds as Floyd, who is Black, lay prone, handcuffed and pleading for air. Bystander video of the arrest went viral, sparking outrage and unrest in the Twin Cities, nation and around the world.
Prosecutors say Chauvin’s knee killed Floyd. The defense argues that Chauvin did what he was trained to do, and that Floyd’s use of drugs and underlying health conditions caused his death.
Arradondo has spoken out against Chauvin before. The Associated Press received a statement last summer, first reported by the Star Tribune, of Arradondo calling Chauvin’s actions “murder.” In regards to questions around training, Arradondo said, “The officers knew what was happening — one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder — it wasn’t a lack of training.”
Arradondo, a fifth-generation Minnesotan, joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 1989 as a patrol officer, eventually working his way up to precinct inspector and head of the Internal Affairs Unit, which investigates officer misconduct allegations. Along the way, he and four other Black officers successfully sued the department for discrimination in promotions, pay and discipline. His predecessor, Janeé Harteau, promoted him to assistant chief in early 2017.
He took over months later, after Harteau was forced out over the fatal shooting of Australia native Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her house.
Many hoped Arradondo, the city’s first African-American police chief, could change the culture of a department that critics said too frequently used excessive force and discriminated against People of Color. He spoke of restoring trust during a swearing-in ceremony that became a community celebration featuring song, dance and prayer in a center close to where he grew up.
But Floyd’s death, which ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, has raised questions about whether Arradondo — or any chief — can fix the department now facing a civil rights investigation.READ MORE: Police: Fleeing Driver Throws Rocks At Squad Car During Hwy 36 Pursuit
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who attempted to save Floyd’s life and pronounced him dead on May 25, testified first Monday. Langenfeld said he believed Floyd died of asphyxiation because of the high levels of carbon dioxide in his body, but the defense countered.
“The use of fentanyl, do you know that to attribute to high carbon dioxide levels?” Nelson said.
“It can cause high carbon dioxide levels because it depresses the ventilation or the breathing,” Langenfeld said.
The last witness on the stand Monday was 5th Precinct Inspector Katie Blackwell, who was formerly a commander in the MPD’s training division.
The state displayed a still image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd and asked Blackwell if that is a technique on which the Minneapolis Police Department trains officers.
“It is not,” Blackwell said. “I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is, so that’s not what we train.”
FIRST WEEK OF TRIAL TESTIMONY
In the first week of trial testimony, jurors saw several surveillance and body-worn camera videos of Floyd’s arrest on May 25 and the events leading up to it. On the recordings, Floyd can be heard crying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” as officers attempt to push him into a squad car. When they eventually give up, Floyd is taken to the ground, where Chauvin kneels over his neck while two other officers hold his waist and legs. One other former officer, Thomas Lane, asks if Floyd should be rolled onto his side before later wondering if he’s passing out.
RELATED: Recap Of Week 1 Of Trial Testimony
At one point, the video captured Chauvin’s explanation for why he knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“We gotta control this guy cuz he’s a sizeable guy, and it looks like he’s probably on something,” Chauvin said, addressing Charles McMillian, a bystander who urged Floyd to get into the squad car, saying: “You can’t win! You can’t win!”
One of the witnesses Wednesday was the teenage cashier at Cup Foods to whom Floyd handed a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Christopher Martin said he spoke with Floyd that evening about what sports he played, saying the tall, muscular man in a tank top seemed friendly but also high, as his answers to questions were delayed. Martin said that he told his manager he’d cover the $20 himself, but the manager sent him to go talk with Floyd after he left the store.
Martin and his co-workers twice tried to settle the matter with Floyd, who was in an SUV across the street with two other people, before his manager had a worker call police. After Floyd was loaded into an ambulance, Martin said he felt disbelief and guilt. “If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided,” he said.
Martin was just a part of the first week’s emotional testimony. The teenager who filmed the viral bystander video, Darnella Frazier, told the court that seeing Floyd’s final moments changed her life.
“When I look at George Floyd, I see my dad, my brother,” Frazier said, adding that she stays up some nights, apologizing to Floyd for not being able to do more.
The most critical testimony came at the end of the week. Two fellow officers testified they thought Chauvin went too far, including homicide unit head Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the department’s most-senior officer.
“Totally unnecessary,” Zimmerman said. “Pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for.”MORE NEWS: Stabbing In Dodge Center Leaves 1 With Serious Injuries
The three other former officers involved in Floyd’s arrest — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. They are slated to stand trial in August.