Podcast: Death of George Floyd/The Response That Might Have Been

It’s pretty obvious by now that the name George Floyd will soon brand itself permanently in law enforcement history just as much as Michael Brown, Rodney King , Miranda,  Graham,  Connor, and quite possibly more than all of them combined.

Whatever happens, too you know and I know that the seemingly surreal actions of ex-Minneapolis officer Derick Chauvin will, by themselves, become the stuff that is required academy training, likely, now and forever. Probably an academy class unto itself.

I did a very informal survey of several veteran officers, decorated cops, longtime trainers, and most current line of duty technical advisors. Among them cumulatively, they have nearly 150 years of total service to law enforcement.

Not one said he had ever seen anything like Derick Chauvin’s knee to George Floyd’s neck. Not one.

Only retired,  much decorated Las Vegas police Lieutenant Randy Sutton said that in the heat of a ground fight, he had put his knee to a subjects neck in the struggle, but only for moments…

“Listen when you’re actually in physical combat with somebody, this isn’t the Marcus of Queensbury rules and this is something that I think that the American public just doesn’t quite grasp and and you know, this isn’t about  I’m going to duke it out with you, you need to employ overwhelming force to take a subject into custody. Every single time a police officer uses force, it can wind up to be a deadly force thing. I can’t tell you the number of times when you know you’re in a tussle with somebody and you go to the ground and a suspect’s head hits the pavement or the officer’s head hits the pavement, you’re in a fight with somebody you’re ground fighting or you’re in a physical altercation. Well, anything can happen. Anything can happen and that’s why people who resist arrest physically, they are taking an awful risk. And so are the officers because more cops have been seriously injured in the line of duty from from the physical altercations. And believe me, we all know that there have been plenty of suspects that died during altercations as well. And now of course then, who gets painted as the brutal cop. You know, here’s the thing. Everything that has fallen on the American law enforcement officer since Rodney King, there was one common denominator and that is failure to comply.”

You remember years ago, in our program on the murder of Deputy Dinkheller first came out? EVERY  cop watching Kyle’s murderer, Andrew Brandon, go back to his truck to ultimately come out with a rifle, was SCREAMING at the TV,  SCREAMING at Kyle Dinkheller to shoot the son of a bitch! I almost felt the same visceral reaction watching officer Chauvin, knee to Floyd’s neck…as bystanders urged Floyd to get up and get into the car, which he very obviously couldn’t. I’m thinking get off the man’s neck For God’s sake!

(audio from George Floyd)

Line of Duty Technical Advisor retired Sgt. Mark DiBona said there was a HUGE opportunity to deescalate…which never happened….

“First thing I would have done if I walked up and saw what I saw. I saw the officer standing over him. I saw the other officer kneeling on him. The first thing I would have said is sit him up because he’s yelling, I can’t breathe. Sit him up. That’s the first thing I would have said. I would have said, you know, we’ve got my radio if it hasn’t already been done is called for EMS and that was set him up. So we sit him on his butt. He’s leaning against the car he’s getting here. We’re not going to uncuff him, absolutely not, because he committed a crime. He’s under arrest. We’re not gonna uncuff him. But we’re gonna make it is as comfortable as we can make it for him. And then, and I’ve been in situations where the crowds have gathered, we made an arrest and they start yelling at us, throwing things at us. I just say all the time, get this person out of here. Get them out of here, throw in I almost I almost said throw them in the back seat. That’s not what  I want to say, put them in the back seat, put them in a paddy wagon, the cruiser and get them out of there. Go down to the end of the street. You have to readjust the handcuffs or you have to sit them back up or you have to wait for the EMS to come down there or something like that. Those are things that we can do. That officer, correct me if I’m wrong, had 19 years experience and from what I hear, he’s a square way guy. Maybe his emotions got the best to him. I don’t know. But if I was a sergeant on the scene, that guy would have been in the back of an ambulance or back of a police car, let’s get them out. Let’s get them out of here.”

The inaction’s of the other three officers, Chauvin’s fellow officers…will also become an integral part of Academy training. Just my humble opinion. Of the other three officers there that day, two were rookies with four days on the job. One was black. Why didn’t one of them step forward and try to get officer Chauvin to back off, tap out, deescalate? Was it the fact they were rookies and may have felt intimidated by their training officer, a 19 year veteran who had seemingly gone over the edge.

You’ll find this response from Dr. Andrew Dennis, head trauma surgeon at Chicago’s largest trauma hospital, very interesting. By the way, Dr. Dennis is also a full-time cop.

“I would love to say, in an ideal world, absolutely they should have. They should have 100% advocated for stopping it and deescalating, you know, sure, but I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the circumstance, I won’t defend them for not doing it. But I can, as I’ve seen it time and time again, as to why it is not done. And that’s also a training issue. Because, you know, you’re your brother’s keeper. And we all got to keep each other out of trouble when one of us is making bad decisions. I mean, when you look at career resource management, which was devised by FAA. That’s why planes crash, because co-pilots and subordinates were afraid to tell the captain we’re out of gas. Career resource management was developed exactly for that purpose. To defeat hierarchal fears of, of speaking up. The problem in the hospital is no different. You know, in the operating room, if a med student says ‘hey, the drape near the light from the laparoscope is about to start a fire!’ you know, you got to listen to the med students. So there’s a time and a place, but they’re scared to death of me. I’m the attending, you know. So I absolutely think there is a rank issue and a subordinate risk issue. And it’s not new. It exists in the military. It exists in commercial airlines. And it is something that’s been well recognized, and well thought out. I actually wrote an article about this, like years ago, and I never actually published it. But this exact topic of how to apply career resource management policies and procedures, and guidance to law enforcement. And this is really critical, especially with SWAT teams, because those critical decisions come up all the time.”

I hope you’ll be looking for our upcoming program: CLASSROOM TRAINING/GEORGE FLOYD/THE RESPONSE THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. It’s coming your way exclusively from In the Line of Duty. Meantime, there is fantastic help available for hurting officers, especially in these troubled times. Go to Randy Sutton’s wonderful site, it’s exclusively for cops, the wounded blue.org. Help is indeed at your fingertips. Please consider using it. For all your online video training needs, go to lineofduty.com. Thanks for listening. I’m Ron Barber, and that’s Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy.

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