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Explainer: Was Use of Force Lawful in George Floyd’s Arrest?


Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo answers questions on the sixth day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)
Explainer: Was Use of Force Lawful in George Floyd’s Arrest?
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The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin continues in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the jury in the case is hearing a lot about the use of force by police.

Chauvin is known to have kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes in May 2020 while the detained man stopped breathing and died. The neck is the part of the body between the head and the body.

The former police officer is being charged with murder and manslaughter, a less serious crime related to causing the death of another person.

The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, answered lawyers’ questions on Monday during the trial. Soon after Floyd died in police custody last year, Arradondo called what happened “murder.”

During the trial on Monday, Arradondo said what Chauvin did to Floyd was “in no way” part of his department’s training. Arradondo has said Chauvin broke the rules during his arrest of Floyd, who was accused of trying to use false money at a store.

FILE - Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis a day before jury selection is scheduled to begin for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman accused of killing George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 7, 2021.
FILE - Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis a day before jury selection is scheduled to begin for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman accused of killing George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 7, 2021.


On Monday, Arradondo listed a number of things Chauvin did wrong while arresting Floyd. He said Chauvin should have eased pressure on Floyd sooner. He said Chauvin used too much pressure on Floyd’s neck. He also did not try to help Floyd when it seemed like he was not breathing. And he did not follow the police department’s rules to try to ease the worry in a difficult situation.

“That action is not de-escalation,” he said.

Earlier in the trial, a doctor said Floyd most likely died because his heart stopped from a lack of oxygen.

Here are some of the important questions that came up on Monday.

What kind of restraints on the neck are permitted?

The police department permits restraint of a person’s neck. One is called a conscious restraint and another is an unconscious restraint. One is supposed to give a police officer control of someone who is fighting against them. The other is supposed to make the person go to sleep, or lose consciousness.

In both cases, the pressure is supposed to be reduced if the person is having trouble breathing.

Floyd said he could not breathe many times based on videos recorded by people watching the incident.

What do the lawyers say?

Chauvin’s lawyer is Eric Nelson. Nelson provided a document to the court that showed a trainer kneeling on the neck of someone being arrested. The documents were part of a guide given to police officers.

However, other officers said that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for too long. Especially after he lost consciousness.

What do experts say?

People who are trained in the restraint used on Floyd – known as a choke hold – say it is easy for the move to go wrong. Jack Ryan is a lawyer and a former police officer who knows about choke holds. He said it is easy to make a mistake and make it hard for a person to breathe.

Another expert said the move requires a lot of training and “precision,” and that it is easy to lose the skill without additional training.

How much pressure was Chauvin using?

Some people who saw what happened said it looked like Chauvin put his full weight on Floyd. But Chauvin’s lawyer pointed out that a doctor who saw Floyd after he died said there was not tissue damage or injuries to his neck.

I’m Dan Friedell.

The Associated Press wrote this story. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

Do you think the police broke the rules when restraining George Floyd? Tell us in the Comments Section and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

knee –n. the joint between the upper and lower leg

custody –n. the state of being kept in a prison or jail, or being held by police

escalate –v. to become worse or to make (something) worse or more severe

conscious –adj. awake and able to understand what is happening around you

choke –v. to cause (someone) to stop breathing by squeezing the throat

precision –adj. done in a very careful and exact way

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