The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, told the Derek Chauvin murder trial on Monday that he “vehemently disagrees” that there was any justification for the former police officer to keep his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
The jury also heard from another police official, Inspector Katie Blackwell, who oversaw the department's training. Both police officials testified Chauvin's restraint of George Floyd using his knee was not something Minneapolis officers are taught.
Arradondo said on the sixth day of the trial that Chauvin’s treatment of the 46-year-old Black man breached regulations and showed a disregard “for the sanctity of life”.
“Once Mr Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalise that, that should have stopped,” he said.
The police chief said that while it might have been reasonable to use a certain level of force “to get him under control in the first few seconds”, Chauvin’s subsequent actions did not meet the standard of “objectively reasonable force”.
Earlier, under questioning by prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Arradondo emphasised that the department values treating others with dignity and respect. When asked to explain the department's goal of "serving with compassion," Arradondo said: "It means to understand and authentically accept that we see our neighbours as ourselves."
"We value one another," he said. "We see our community as necessary for our existence."
Arradondo was also asked about the department's de-escalation policy, which requires officers to seek to minimise the use of physical force. Of Chauvin's restraint against Floyd, he said, "That action is not de-escalation."
Arradondo said that far from being aggressive, Floyd appeared to be completely passive. “As a matter of fact, as I saw that video I didn’t even know if Mr Floyd was alive at that time,” he said.
It is highly unusual for a police chief to give evidence against one of his own officers.
Arradondo, his city’s first Black police chief, fired Chauvin shortly after Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, 45, has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge. Three other officers face charges.
Floyd’s death last year reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted mass protests for racial justice across the US and other parts of the world.
The prosecutor spent the day on Monday building a case that Chauvin failed to follow his training to consider whether Floyd’s resisting arrest was “a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply” because of issues such as medical conditions, mental impairment or the influence of drugs.
Two other members of the department took the stand last week and criticised Chauvin's use of force. Chauvin's supervising sergeant said force should have ended as soon as Floyd stopped resisting, and the high-ranking lieutenant who heads the homicide unit called Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck "totally unnecessary" and "just uncalled for."
On Thursday, Floyd’s girlfriend testified that he was addicted to opioids and another witness said that he appeared to be high shortly before his arrest. Arradondo agreed that a person under the influence of drugs might be more vulnerable than dangerous.
The police chief said that Chauvin should have considered a number of factors in how he dealt with Floyd.
“Is the person a threat to the officer and others? What is the severity of the crime? Are you re-evaluating and assessing the individual’s medical condition?” said Arradondo.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, put it to Arradondo that the use of force, such as an officer pointing a gun, could be a de-escalation tactic in certain circumstances if it prevents greater violence. The police chief was hesitant but said it could sometimes be the case.
The police chief questioned the need to detain Floyd at all, saying that it would not be normal to arrest a person for passing a counterfeit bill because “it’s not a violent felony”.
The prosecutor also drew Arradondo’s attention to the failure of Chauvin and the officers with him to render medical assistance to Floyd when he stopped breathing.
The police chief said that all officers are trained in first aid and “absolutely have a duty” to render it to a person having a medical crisis such as Floyd when he said he could not breathe and then passed out.
Earlier on Monday, the emergency room doctor who tried to save Floyd’s life told the trial he most likely died of asphyxiation.
Dr Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld said he saw no evidence Floyd was killed by a heart attack or a drug overdose as Chauvin’s defence has claimed in attempting to deny that the death resulted from the officer keeping his knee on the detained man’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Langenfeld, who declared Floyd dead, told the court there was not a heartbeat “sufficient to sustain life” and that he believed cardiac arrest was brought on by “lack of oxygen”. He was asked by the prosecutor if there was another term for that.
“Asphyxia,” said Langenfeld.
Langenfeld told the court a delay in treating Floyd, particularly giving him CPR, may have reduced his chance of survival. Ambulance paramedics reported that the police made no effort to give Floyd medical assistance even though he had passed out and was unresponsive by the time they arrived on the scene.
Court is expected to resume Tuesday with a motions hearing at 8:30 am local time (9:30am ET).