MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Calling George Floyd’s death a murder, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo confirmed that Derek Chauvin, the former officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, had taken department training aimed at preventing that type of situation.
The statement issued late Monday night came in response to questions about whether the department had abided by a 2013 settlement in which it agreed to train all of its sworn officers on the dangers of asphyxiating arrestees.
“Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not the result of a lack of training – the training was there. Chauvin knew what he was doing,” Arradondo said. “I agree with Attorney General Ellison: what happened to Mr. Floyd was murder.”
Monday night marked the first time Arradondo has gone as far as to call Floyd’s death a murder. State officials including Governor Tim Walz and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington have called Floyd’s death a murder in the weeks since viral footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for just shy of nine minutes sparked nationwide civil unrest. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was calling for Chauvin’s arrest on murder charges as early as May 27, two days after Floyd’s death.
Arradondo’s statement comes at a time of high pressure for the department. City Council members and activist groups have called for MPD to be disbanded, and police union leader Bob Kroll broke a lengthy silence Tuesday morning to appear on a local CBS station saying that “failed leadership” had unfairly placed blame on him and his union for issues within the department.
Kroll and Arradondo have a long history of butting heads. In a 2007 racial discrimination lawsuit, Arradondo and four other black officers alleged that Kroll wore a white supremacist group’s patch on his motorcycle jacket and called then-Congressman Keith Ellison, a black Muslim, a terrorist.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter, and three former officers who assisted in Floyd’s arrest have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. One of those three, Tou Thao, also received the training on avoiding asphyxiation, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Two other officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, had been on the job fewer than five working days before participating in Floyd’s arrest. Both Kueng and Lane have been released on bail.
Chauvin, meanwhile, was briefly held at a maximum-security prison in the Stillwater, Minnesota, suburb of Oak Park Heights before being moved to the Ramsey County Jail in the state capital of St. Paul, a move that sparked civil rights complaints from corrections officers of color who alleged that only white officers had been allowed to guard Chauvin’s floor.
Arradondo stressed that the department had hammered in the importance of positioning arrestees in a way that allows them to breathe even before it required training on the matter as part of a settlement with the family of David Smith, who died in police custody in 2010 after officers tased him and knelt on his back for several minutes.
The $3 million settlement with Smith’s family required the department to formally retrain officers on what’s called positional asphyxia. In the wake of Floyd’s death, members of Smith’s family and the press have raised questions as to whether the training had actually happened.
Arradondo’s statement was a response to public records requests seeking specific details on the training, which have yet to be released. The department held those training sessions and more, Arradondo said, and the MPD also explicitly required officers to move arrestees into a recovery position after restraining them.
“MPD continues to stress training on the risks of in-custody deaths and the importance of putting restrained arrestees into the recovery position as soon as possible,” the police chief said. “There is simply no way that any competent officer in MPD would be unaware of the need to get an arrestee into a recovery position so that he or she can breathe freely.”
Abigail Cerra, who serves on the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission and filed the records requests alongside the Star Tribune, told the paper she’s not yet satisfied.
“It’s taken three weeks to get an answer about was this training requirement was met,” she said. “Right now all we have is Rondo’s statement.”
Public records requests are a touchy subject with the police department. Local reporter Tony Webster recently filed a lawsuit alleging MPD had deliberately withheld documents from his request for disciplinary data regarding its officers, a choice that was revealed when the department issued details on Chauvin’s disciplinary history it had previously concealed.