During a lengthy testimony on Monday, a Minneapolis police official said nothing in protest of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer accused of killing George Floyd.
“Continuing to exercise that level of power on a person who has been exiled, handcuffed, has no policy, position or status in line with the policy,” said Chief Medaria Arradondo. “It’s not part of our training, and it’s not part of our behavior or our goals.”
Arradondo’s testimony should not have come as a shock. In his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the judges that Arradondo was not delaying his investigation into the fact that Cauvin had used “excessive force” when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds last May.
However, Arradondo’s testimony was unusual. That he was joined by a large number of law enforcement officials was astonishing.
Among those who joined Arradondo in the tent as witnesses to the prosecution was Lt. Richard Zimmerman, a long-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, and Inspector Katie Blackwell, who at the time of the death of Floyd who was the head of the training unit.
Sgt. David Pleoger, Kauvin’s former boss, also warned against his actions. Ploger testified last week that, among other things, when Floyd “refused to resist the authorities, they could end their restraint,” and that Chavin did not first disclose that he was on Floyd’s neck.
Arradondo, Zimmerman, Pleoger and Blackwell did not protect Cauvin behind the so-called blue wall of peace for various reasons, legal experts said. “Blue wall of peace” means an illegal oath by the police not to report a colleague’s wrongdoing, including charges.
Paul Butler, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, said the blue wall meant that “sometimes the police who approached the ranks – whether right or wrong – were blue.”
“Most of the time the police have been charged with murder, it’s because they shot the man,” said Butler, an MSNBC legal commentator who was also a contributor to The Washington Post.
“The act of shooting a person requires a decision of a second division,” he said.
In those cases, police may be reluctant to testify about their colleagues in part because they hate being ridiculed by people who do not know the dangers of their work, Butler said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cauvin’s ban on Floyd, however, has been met, Butler said.
“He had 9 minutes and 29 seconds to deal with his actions,” he said.
An international protest against racism and police brutality fueled by Floyd’s death could also be a reason for peace, Butler said.
“I think the police officers want to model what the good cops, judges and the community look like, unlike Chavin,” he said. “I was impressed by how many police officers were willing to record the history of how Chavin violated police policy and criminal law.”
“Pulling him face down and placing your knee around his neck at that moment is not uncommon,” said Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985 and leads its killing spree.
Zimmerman responded to the scene after Floyd was taken away by ambulance. He testified that Chavin’s actions were “completely unnecessary.” He said he did not see “the reason why the officers felt they were in danger – if that was what they were feeling – and that was what they would feel so that they could use that kind of power.”
His testimony was compelling, but Butler said, because police witnesses were reluctant to reach such conclusions because they did not want to be part of the conviction or wanted a judge to decide whether the force was strong.
That was not the case with some of Kauvin’s former colleagues.
Arradondo, the city’s first black police officer, also testified in the case of Mohamed Noor, a former police officer accused of killing Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who had called police to report what he thought was a sexual assault on a woman in the backyard of his home. Noor was found guilty of three counts of murder.
DeLacy Davis, who retired as a sergeant at the East Orange Police Department in New Jersey in 2006, said it was rare for a police officer to testify against a police officer in a criminal case.
Davis, an expert on the use of force and policing in the community, said he believed there were three reasons Arradondo testified against Cauvin, the first being that what Cauvin did was “bad.”
Davis said that was proven by how quickly Arradondo fired the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. They were fired on May 26 – the day after Floyd’s death. In general, Davis said, police chiefs would wait weeks or months to discipline for misconduct – if possible – and, in most cases, only after facing public pressure.
The second reason he believed Arradondo’s testimony was to strengthen morality.
“To re-sponsor men and women who still work in Minneapolis but have to somehow regain their character and put their work together as professional legal managers, you need to send a clear message,” Davis said. “And I think he did that.”
Davis said he believed Floyd’s death was the result of a divorce decision.
“I believe Derek Chauvin has decided separately that George Floyd did not deserve any of the humanity he begged for,” he said. “I hope this is an important legal point that we now see multi-racial officials talking and talking.”