EXPLAINER: Was officer's knee on Floyd's neck authorized?

Full Screen
1 / 2

This undated image submitted by Derek Chauvin's defense shows a page from Minneapolis Police Department training materials. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin is on trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis for the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Minneapolis Police Department via AP)

CHICAGO – A critical factor for jurors to consider at a former Minneapolis police officer's trial in George Floyd's death is whether he violated the department's policy on neck restraints when he knelt on Floyd's neck.

The Minneapolis Police Department banned all forms of neck restraints and chokeholds weeks after Floyd's death, but at the time of his May 25 arrest by Derek Chauvin and other officers, certain neck restraints were permitted — provided certain guidelines and conditions were followed.

Here is a look at the policy, which was a focus of testimony Monday, and how it could factor into a verdict for Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter:


The department policy, in place for at least eight years at the time, divided permissible neck restraints into two categories, according to court filings and testimony Monday by the city police chief, Medaria Arradondo. Neck restraints were defined in the policy as a “non-deadly force option.”

One, called a “conscious neck restraint,” was for light pressure applied to the neck to help control a person without rendering unconsciousness. It was permitted for a person actively resisting.

The other was an “unconscious neck restraint,” in which officers could use their arms or legs to knock out a person by pressing carotid arteries on either side of the neck, blocking blood flow to the brain. The policy called for it to be used only for a person “exhibiting active aggression” or actively resisting when lesser attempts to control the person had failed or were likely to fail.

Police guidelines also instructed officers, at the first possible opportunity, to turn people on their sides once they were handcuffed and under control to avoid “positional asphyxia,” in which breathing becomes labored in a prone position and can lead to death. The city had pledged to emphasize to officers the dangers of positional asphyxia as part of a $3 million settlement in the 2010 death of David Smith. Minneapolis officers subdued Smith with a Taser and pinned him face down on the floor for several minutes with their knees on his back.