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POLICE witnesses in the trial of officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd have denied police training encouraged the knee-on-neck “restraint” technique that likely led to his death.
Mr Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 26 seconds on May 25 last year. As uproar spread worldwide following the killing, rights groups drew attention to United States police’s violent restraint methods, with Minneapolis Police records showing that 44 people had lost consciousness while under police “neck restraint” between 2015 and 2020.
But use-of-force instructor Lieutenant Johnny Mercil said on Tuesday that police were trained to “stay away from the neck when possible.”
He gave evidence as the court heard that Mr Chauvin had taken a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognise people “in crisis” and de-escalate situations, and a further course in the use of force in 2018.
Lt Mercil insisted that the sanctity of life was the cornerstone of police training in the use of force. Campaign group Mapping Police Violence found last year that US police kill an average of three people per day.
The instructor said officers are trained to use their knees to restrain suspects, but “we tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible.” Mr Chauvin’s lawyers argue that he was following his training when kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck.
The court also heard that police are supposed to provide first aid before paramedics arrive where possible, and that officers should stop violent restraint if the suspect becomes unresponsive, as Mr Floyd did.
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