CHICAGO — Charges came down Wednesday for the three former Minneapolis police officers on the scene when George Floyd died.
Their inaction on the scene has prompted questions about the neck restraint used on Floyd.
For 17 years, Dr. Shawn Williams, assistant professor at St. Cloud State University, was a sworn police officer. For the last 10 plus years, he was in Minneapolis. He even trained officers as part of his job. He also says, without hesitation, the police manual dated from 2012 may have said neck restraints were part of Minneapolis police training, but they should look different than what was seen in the now viral video.
“What we saw in the video is not, was never, never is categorized as a neck restraint in my time in training,” he said.
Williams says these techniques are used to temporarily cut off blood flow to the carotid artery, not air flow at the trachea. It’s used to control an aggressive subject — and not all officers there choose to use them.
“That was not a trained technique ever. That was a lapse in judgment the way I look at it. From a personal stand point,” Williams said.
Still, records show, the Minneapolis Police Department used controversial neck restraints over 40 times in the past five years. This as police departments across the country are banning them. including in parts of southern California.
“My experience in dealing with police officers, that is something that is not taught,” Joe Roddy, former Cook County prosecutor, said.
Not taught in Chicago, says Roddy. He used to prosecute cases at 26th Street and California Avenue. In his experience, charging former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin within days of Floyd’s last breath and the other three officers on the scene nine days following Floyd’s death, is a reasonable span of time.
“They wanted to get it right and they did it as quickly as they could,” he said.
Getting the charges right is important. Back in 2015, off duty Chicago police Officer Dante Servin was found not guilty of shooting and killing Rekia Boyd. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter. The judge said there was no evidence of reckless conduct and Servin walked out of court.
Talking to witnesses, gathering evidence, reviewing videotape and more. It takes time, Roddy says, despite the sentiment inside the emotional Minneapolis memorial for Floyd.
“It seems some in the criminal justice system have a problem looking at a tape and knowing there is probable cause and it takes a long time to go and see you do what you need to do,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
You may remember it took more than a year for former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to be charged in the death of Laquan McDonald — an on duty white officer who was convicted of firing 16 shots at black teen.
On Wednesday, charges did come down against the remaining three officers on the scene in Minneapolis — essentially aiding and abetting, and Chauvin’s charges were elevated to second degree murder. Roddy said such charges make them all more or less accountable for Floyd’s death. This as protestors continue to fill city and suburban streets from coast to coast, begging for more to be done.
More education for officers, more police reform overall, and more training, not just in Minneapolis, but in departments across the country.