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Lawyers for 3 cops in training on Floyd murder issues – Minnesota Lawyer

ST. PAUL — Defense attorneys at the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating the civil rights of George Floyd questioned a senior officer on Monday about the department’s training on restraints and an officer’s duty intervene, as well as a culture that they believe teaches new officers not to question their superiors.

Federal prosecutors say former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao violated their training by failing to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, when fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, face down and out of breath. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao held back passers-by.

Former Minneapolis Police Department training chief Inspector Katie Blackwell – on the stand for a third day – testified that Kueng, Lane and Thao acted in a manner ‘inconsistent’ with department policies , including failing to intervene to stop Chauvin, failing to roll Floyd onto his side when he stopped resisting, and failing to provide medical aid when he stopped breathing.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, asked Blackwell on Monday whether the officers had received adequate training, including on the use of neck restraints. He also presented department training materials on how to handle someone with “excited delirium” — an agitated state that the documents say might warrant more forceful restraint.

The materials, taken from on-the-job training Thao allegedly received, say a person with excited delirium, which is a contested condition, can exhibit extraordinary strength. In the videos, people were not stopped by Tasers and sometimes escaped police restraint. In addition, officers sometimes used a knee to restrain people.

Floyd struggled with officers when they attempted to put him in a police cruiser and after knocking him to the ground. He repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe until he lay still. The videotaped killing sparked global protests and a re-examination of racism and policing.

During further questioning by prosecutor LeeAnn Bell, Blackwell said officers were told that if they use a knee to handcuff someone, they should roll the person onto their side and call emergency medical services in because of the danger of their airways being blocked. But the training material presented on Monday had only one sentence in a slide stating that officers should put a person in the lateral recovery position.

Some medical examiners have attributed deaths in custody to excited delirium, often in cases where the person had become extremely agitated after taking drugs, having a mental health episode or another health condition. But there’s no universally accepted definition, and researchers said it’s not well understood.

Blackwell said even when excited delirium is suspected, officers should stop using force when the resistance stops.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, suggested his client did what he was trained to do, including trying to defuse the situation, breaking his restraint when Floyd stopped moving, checking his pulse and telling him asking if he should be rolled on his side.

Blackwell agreed with Gray that Lane went above and beyond in assisting paramedics trying to revive Floyd in the ambulance that eventually arrived.

But when questioned by Bell, Blackwell said Lane didn’t do enough when Floyd was in police custody. She said Lane did not check to see if Floyd was breathing after he lost consciousness and “took no steps to … physically stop the inappropriate force being used when no force was necessary.”

Although the department doesn’t have a training scenario called “duty to intervene,” Blackwell said the idea is being addressed.

Defense lawyers said officers learn to obey their superiors and suggested that Chauvin – who was a field training officer for new recruits – take charge of the scene. Blackwell testified that requiring recruits to follow orders does not replace policy.

Kueng, who is black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are accused of willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. A charge against the three officers alleges they saw Floyd in need of medical attention and failed to help. A tally against Thao and Kueng argues that they did not intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Prosecutors argued that the “voluntary” standard can be met by showing “patently wrongful conduct” that disenfranchised Floyd, 46.

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 will also face a separate trial in June for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

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