Attorneys for 3 cops in Floyd killing questioning training

Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski and Tammy Webber
Associated Press

St. Paul, Minn. – The former head of training for the Minneapolis Police Department returned to the witness stand Monday at the federal trial of three former police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights as defense attorneys try to make the case that the officers’ training was inadequate.

Inspector Katie Blackwell began her testimony last week, saying that former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao acted in a way that was “inconsistent” with department policies when Floyd was killed by fellow Officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the Black man’s neck for 91/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air.

In this image from video, Minneapolis Police Inspector Katie Blackwell testifies April 5, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Blackwell said officers are instructed that they have a duty to intervene if a fellow officer is using unreasonable force, and 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.”

Federal prosecutors say Kueng, Lane and Thao didn’t follow their training when they failed to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back. The videotaped killing triggered worldwide protests and a reexamination of racism and policing.

But Thao’s attorney Robert Paule pushed back as he questioned Blackwell on Monday.

Paule brought up the fact that while department policy allowed officers to use their legs to implement a neck restraint, they were not taught how to do it.

“In other words, police officers received absolutely zero training on how to use a leg as a mechanism for restraint,” he said. Blackwell agreed.

Paule returned to some of the points raised last week by Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, who said when officers are trained in use-of-force scenarios, intervention is not taught.

Blackwell also has 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.

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, 46, 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.

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Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.