A confrontation between four Minneapolis police officers and a man that ended with the man’s death while in police custody has sparked discussions, mass protests and violent riots throughout the country.
Leaders of two local law enforcement agencies said the practice some viewed in a viral video of one officer sitting with his knee on the back of a prostrate suspect’s neck would not happen here.
Seguin Police Chief Terry Nichols and Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke both said such a tactic is not taught at their agencies and wouldn’t be tolerated.
Zwicke said he needed more information and preferred to wait until the full investigation is complete in Minnesota before he felt comfortable commenting on what happened there. But the knee to the back of the neck is not allowed in his agency, he said.
“We don’t practice that, no, but I don’t know what his situation was,” Zwicke said. “Was he in a life or death struggle, was it a bad move or is that their training?”
A cell phone video taken at the scene and posted on social media outlets has made the rounds since Memorial Day in Minneapolis. According to published reports, police were called to a store where the man, since identified as 46-year-old George Floyd, was accused of forgery. Officers arrived and detained Floyd.
The widely shared video footage shows one police officer with his knee planted into Floyd’s neck, while the suspect appears to be handcuffed face down on the ground. One other officer orders onlookers to step away while the knee appears to be ground into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Onlookers and Floyd beg officers to stop the treatment, and Floyd can be heard saying he can’t breathe.
Minneapolis officials subsequently fired four police officers who were at the scene and the city announced an investigation into what took place. Meanwhile, protests, clashes with peace keepers and looting reportedly took place across the city.
On Friday, authorities announced the arrest of the former officer seen in video footage kneeling on Floyd. Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to published reports.
Zwicke said he would like to see the final results of the investigation before he comments on anything that happened with the officers. He did not want to pass judgement on the police or Floyd, the sheriff said.
“How did it happen is what I want to know. No that’s not part of the training but how did they end up in that position,” Zwicke said. “The other thing I would like to say is if people would simply comply with a lawful order, they wouldn’t find themselves in those situations.”
Nichols acknowledged that he wasn’t there and has no firsthand knowledge of everything that transpired between Floyd and police in Minneapolis. But from what he saw in the video footage, he felt confident in saying that Seguin police are not trained to use a knee as the Minneapolis officer did. No agency he knows of learns such tactics, Nichols said.
“That’s not how we’re trained,” he said. “That’s not how any police work is done.”
Seguin has a well-trained police force, the chief said. A similar incident would never happen here, he said.
The officers’ actions in Minneapolis paint all peace officers in a bad light, Nichols said.
“We can do all the great things in the world and you have this one situation with one agency and it takes the entire profession back 16 steps,” he said. “Hopefully, they will be held accountable. I don’t see any way they won’t be held accountable.
“They’re going to pay for it, and just like any person who commits a criminal offense, they should be held accountable.”
He, too, wants to see the investigation take its rightful course and all of the facts be presented, Nichols said. The events and misconduct were evident in the video, though, he said.
“I don’t know if the knee to the neck caused this man’s death, … I don’t know. That will all come out in the wash,” Nichols said. “But I did see enough and I think the rest of the world saw enough that this is wrong and we have to call it what it is.”
His officers are not authorized to submit a suspect to a hold using a knee to the neck, the chief said. They have a device that wraps up a suspect once in custody to prevent the person from harming anyone, including officers or themselves, Nichols said.
They’re trained to use the device and to never leave a person on their stomach handcuffed because of what he called positional asphyxia, he said.
Police aren’t the only ones apparently doing wrong in Minneapolis, Nichols said. The people looting and burning, taking advantage of the situation in the name of protest also should know better, he said.
Due process should be administered for those people and for the police officer who, in his eyes, obviously did wrong, Nichols said.
“The victim, he did not get his due process,” the chief said. “That is tragic. Now society is going to deal with these officers.”