Derek Chauvin Trial: Officers used excessive force against Floyd, training expert says

Expert in tactics and de-escalation training said force used "was excessive"

Erin Donaghue – CBS News

An expert witness testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday that officers used excessive force against George Floyd during his fatal May 2020 arrest. LAPD Sergeant Jody Stiger, an expert in tactics and de-escalation training, reviewed the case and testified for the prosecution.

“My opinion was the force was excessive,” Stiger said.

Stiger said Floyd initially actively resisted officers when officers were attempting to get him inside the police vehicle, and at that point, officers were justified in using force. However, once Floyd was placed in handcuffs on the ground and stopped his resistance, the former officers should have slowed down or stopped their force as well. 

Court adjourned for the day Tuesday afternoon, and Stiger was expected to return to the stand Wednesday to continue his testimony.

Chauvin, who was seen in disturbing videos kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Earlier, more Minneapolis police officials took the stand. Their testimony came a day after Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Chauvin’s actions violated department policy.

Tuesday’s first witness, Minneapolis Police Sergeant Ker Yang, explained how the department’s crisis intervention team responds to people suffering behavioral or mental health crises. He said officers are trained to de-escalate a situation whenever “safe and feasible.” Next up, Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who trains officers in use of force and defensive tactics, took the stand. A martial arts practitioner, he said he incorporated Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques into the department’s police training. He said officers are trained to use the least amount of force possible to gain a person’s compliance.

At the time of Floyd’s death, Mercil testified officers were authorized to use neck restraints by applying pressure to the side of a person’s neck to gain compliance, but only for people who were actively resisting or assaultive, and only if other techniques had not worked. Looking at a picture of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Mercil said it was not an authorized neck restraint. He said such a restraint is not authorized to be used against someone who is handcuffed and under control. All neck restraints at the department have since been banned.

Mercil later told defense attorney Eric Nelson that the department does train officers to place knee on someone’s shoulder if they are resisting being handcuffed while in the prone position. Nelson pointed to several body camera images that appeared to show Chauvin’s knee between Floyd’s shoulder blades.

Prosecutors then called the department’s medical coordinator Nicole Mackenzie to the stand, who testified officers are required to provide CPR to a person if they can’t find their pulse. Chauvin, she said, took her first aid courses and was trained in CPR. She told Nelson that it can be “incredibly difficult” to treat a patient amid a loud and excited crowd and that a scene must be safe for an officer to render aid. Nelson has repeatedly portrayed the crowd of onlookers during Floyd’s fatal arrest as unruly.

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