As attorneys argued over whether to allow evidence from George Floyd's 2019 arrest at the trial of a former police officer charged in his death in 2020, Judge Peter Cahill wanted to know the relevance of Floyd's behavior a year before he died.
Weren’t Derek Chauvin and other officers “duty bound to deal with the arrestee as they find them?” Cahill asked.
Legal and criminal justice experts say Cahill was expressing a longstanding concept that police officers are required to protect not only themselves and the public, but the person they are arresting. That duty could be key at the trial that starts with opening statements Monday, especially as the defense asserts that Floyd's swallowing of pills contributed to his death.
WHAT IS AN OFFICER'S DUTY?
“You always want to keep in mind what our motto is and that is to protect and serve the public. That includes the arrestee,” said Mylan Masson, who once headed police training at Hennepin Technical College and served on the Minnesota Police Officers Standards and Training Board for more than 20 years.
The Minneapolis Police Department sought to train its officers to minimize violence in the years before Floyd died. In 2016, the department rewrote its use of force policy to emphasize the “sanctity of life,” and began training officers in de-escalation — calming people down to prevent violence.
“The point of this new use of force policy was to communicate to officers to not do exactly what Chauvin did,” said Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor who has argued for sweeping criminal justice reform. Floyd's death indicates the 2016 reforms in Minneapolis didn't work, he said.
WHAT IS REASONABLE FORCE?