USA TODAY International Edition

Tuesday’s testimony on use of force, giving aid

- N’dea Yancey- Bragg, Tami Abdollah, Kevin McCoy, Grace Hauck and Eric Ferkenhoff

A police lieutenant who taught training attended by Derek Chauvin in 2018 said kneeling on a neck wasn’t part of it.

MINNEAPOLI­S – Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, who taught use- of- force training attended by Derek Chauvin in 2018, told jurors in the former officer’s murder trial that placing a knee on a neck was not a department- trained restraint.

Mercil, who took the stand Tuesday, is a key witness because he’s the first use- of- force expert jurors have heard from, and he carries additional credibilit­y because he is specifically familiar with and teaches Minneapoli­s Police Department use- of- force policies.

Chauvin faces murder and manslaught­er charges in the death of a handcuffed George Floyd after he pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest in May. Chauvin and other officers who responded did not render medical aid, and Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than two minutes after officers realized Floyd did not have a pulse, according to court records.

Mercil said using a knee on the neck or back can be an authorized use of force, but it’s usually transitory and depends on the time frame and type of resistance. If the subject is handcuffed and not resisting, it is not authorized, Mercil said. Once the subject is handcuffed and compliant or not resisting, then it’s “an appropriat­e time” for the officer to move their knee, Mercil said.

“There’s the possibilit­y and risk that some people have trouble breathing when they’re handcuffed ( to their back) and on their stomach,” Mercil said. A person is rolled on their side to prevent positional asphyxia, Mercil said. The officer should turn the person to that position “sooner the better.”

“If you can use a lower level of force to meet your objectives, it’s better and safer for everyone involved,” Mercil said.

Under questionin­g by Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, Mercil acknowledg­ed that use- of- force techniques do not have a strict applicatio­n in every instance and that officers are taught to react to the circumstan­ces they face.

Nelson, as he has done throughout the trial, painted the crowd of onlookers faced by the officers as a threat, and Mercil agreed the crowd’s words could be considered threatenin­g and would be a factor officers might consider.

Mercil also agreed under questionin­g that some people make excuses to avoid arrest and that he has had suspects say “I can’t breathe” during an arrest.

Nelson posited that an officer could hold a neck restraint after rendering someone unconsciou­s, perhaps to wait for another officer. Mercil agreed with that. Mercil declined to agree with the argument that Chauvin could hold the neck restraint while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.

On Monday, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told jurors Chauvin’s restraint “absolutely” violated department policy. He said the restraint should have stopped “once Mr. Floyd stopped resisting” and “once he was in distress and verbalized it.” The chief said Chauvin and his fellow officers violated policy by failing to provide medical care to Floyd once he lost his pulse.

Nelson showed Mercil an image of Chauvin kneeling with his knee on Floyd’s neck. Mercil restated that the restraint is not taught to officers but that it can be similar to using body weight to control technique.

“However, we tell officers to stay away on the neck, and we tell officers to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of the position,” Mercil said.

Also Tuesday, the EMT who leads the department’s emergency medical response training told jurors that officers are trained to call for an ambulance and provide aid if a situation is “critical.”

“If you don’t have a pulse on a person, you immediatel­y start CPR,” Officer Nicole Mackenzie said. “If it’s a critical situation, you have to do both” CPR and call for an ambulance.

Sgt. Ker Yang answered prosecutio­n questions focused on showing that Chauvin received training for the type of confrontat­ion he faced with Floyd. Yang confirmed records that show Chauvin completed 40- hour crisis interventi­on training in 2016. The goal of such training, he said, “is to see if that person needs help,” from medical personnel or other assistance.

During cross- examinatio­n, Nelson repeated a line of questionin­g that reminded jurors that the officers struggled with Floyd and simultaneo­usly received criticism from bystanders. Nelson drew Yang to acknowledg­e that “sometimes police actions can look pretty bad.”

 ?? POOL PHOTO ?? Courteney Ross, 45, testifies last week in Minneapoli­s.
POOL PHOTO Courteney Ross, 45, testifies last week in Minneapoli­s.
 ?? AP ?? Minneapoli­s Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use- of- force trainer, testifies in the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday.
AP Minneapoli­s Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use- of- force trainer, testifies in the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday.

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